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 #Action2015.

More mothers and children under five are surviving, but progress is "uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps", the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed today, July 6, launching the final Millennium Development Goals Report (2015). Child under-five mortality has been cut in half since 1990 (reduced from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality has been reduced 45 percent -- with much of the reduction occuring since 2000.

According to the UN press release:

Targeted investments in fighting diseases, such as HIV/AIDs and malaria, have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013.

Worldwide, 2.1 billion have gained access to improved sanitation and the proportion of people practicing open defecation has fallen almost by half since 1990.

 {Photo credit: Sylvia Vriesendorp/MSH}Participants and model wheelchair users on the last day of the WHO Wheelchair Service Training Package-Basic Level delivery in Manila, Philippines.Photo credit: Sylvia Vriesendorp/MSH

A version of this post originally appeared on the Leadership, Management & Governance Project Blog

Since 1992, the United Nations General Assembly has observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. The annual observance aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. 

This year, the theme of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is "Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology".

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) welcomes the report of the United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The HLP’s advisory report, released May 30, is part of an ongoing process of defining the global targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. MSH believes the report demonstrates the panel’s ongoing commitment to health as an essential component of sustainable development and improving lives around the world.

The panel named five specific health targets focusing on infant and child health, immunization, maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and high-burden communicable and chronic diseases. While the panel recognized that universal access to basic health services will be necessary to achieve these goals, it did not recommend an explicit target for increasing healthcare access or coverage.

{Photo credit: MSH}Photo credit: MSH

This post originally appeared on Devex.com.

The Afghan health system was in shambles after the Taliban government was chased from power in December 2001. Immunization rates had fallen below 20 percent and nine out of ten women were on their own for labor and delivery. Suhaila Seddiqi, newly appointed as public health minister, could have begun her tenure with highly visible and politically popular moves like building hospitals in the major cities. She didn’t. Instead, she led the development of a basic package of essential primary care services and coordinated its delivery to Afghans throughout the country, including remote rural areas. It worked. By 2010, twice as many Afghans had access to family planning, maternal deaths were down by two thirds, and reductions in child mortality had saved 150,000 lives.

I was circumcised when I was eighty days old, as is the tradition in Ethiopia. My sister was three. My mother had tried to spare us, but her aunt discovered that we were not circumcised and took it upon herself to have us circumcised.

Years later, I asked my aunt why she did it. Her response was not defensive. On the contrary, she responded very matter-of-fact: My sister and I were circumcised so that we could find a husband, have children, and become women. This is the cultural ideology that most Ethiopian women believed at that time, and unfortunately, that many still adhere to in the 21st century---an ideology and practice that is detrimental to a woman’s health.

Female genital circumcision alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits for girls. On the contrary, the procedure can lead to severe bleeding, infections, and problems urinating, during sexual intercourse, and complications in childbirth, as well as later cysts and increased risk of newborn deaths---not to mention the severe pain and shock of the procedure.

A hurricane superstorm slams the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the United States, flooding Manhattan’s subway system, leaving lower Manhattan and Brooklyn without electricity for days and destroying much of Staten Island. The storm kills hundreds of people, destroys thousands of homes, and causes over $65 billion in damage. Prior to October 2012, this scenario read like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. But now we know these were the very real effects of hurricane Sandy.

Making of Banner for International Day of Persons with Disabilities {Photo Twitpic @UNICCanberra.}Photo Twitpic @UNICCanberra.

On December 3, 2012, the international community commemorated International Day of Persons with Disabilities. About 15 per cent of the global population --- more than one billion people ---  live with some form of disability.

About half are women living with disabilities, many of whom suffer disability-specific gender-based violence.

Ambassador Betty E. King, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva {Photo credit: US Mission, Geneva.}Photo credit: US Mission, Geneva.

The World Health Organization (WHO) established a global monitoring framework for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at a Geneva meeting on November 9, 2012 --- a little over a year after the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration on NCDs.

The chronic disease burden on low- and middle-income countries is vast: 28 million people in developing countries die annually from chronic diseases; yet, 8 million of these deaths are preventable.

International Day of the Girl: End Child MarriageInternational Day of the Girl: End Child Marriage

My grandmother married at 8 years old; my mother married at age 15.

I often wonder what their lives --- their potential --- would have been, if they were not child brides.

Today, the same pattern is repeated in villages and cities around the world. Every year, nearly ten million girls are forced into marriage before they reach the age of 18 --- with little or no say in the matter.

That’s more than 25,000 girls a day; 19 girls each minute.

These girls are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential for healthy and productive lives. When they enter marriage, most drop out of school and enter a world where they work from dusk to dawn to provide labor to the households. From their mothers' care they are transferred to the supervision of their husbands and mothers-in-law, who view them as an additional labor source. Pressured to demonstrate their fertility, they get pregnant when they are still children and face the risk of illness or death when they deliver.

And some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

{Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Over 100 conference delegates came together at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to strategize smart solutions to global development and poverty reduction while promoting environmental concerns such as clean energy, sustainability, and equitable use of resources.  Popularly known as “Rio+20” --- for occurring twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit  --- the three days of high-level meetings attended by heads of state and government and high level representatives resulted in “The Future We Want,” a 53-page document that outlines and renews global commitments to sustainable, earth-friendly development.

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