Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

progress of teh MDGs
The countdown has begun: there are less than 500 days until the December 31, 2015 deadline for the eight Millennium Development Goals to be accomplished. But before global leaders can agree upon a new set of goals to take up after 2015, the progress of the MDGs must first be analyzed.

Organized by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, the 2014 Partners Forum met from June 30 to July 1 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss the various successes and failures on the achievement of the MDGs.

The eight MDGs were created by the U.N. in 2000 with the purpose of alleviating global poverty by 2015. Since the issue of global poverty is such a complicated and multi-layered issue, the MDGs focus on addressing both health and societal concerns.

As 14 years have now passed and the deadline is quickly approaching, about 800 representatives from health, gender and development, nutrition, education, private and public communities attended the 2014 Partners Forum to outline the progress that remains to be seen by the end of next year. As the PMNCH Chair and African Ambassador for A Promised Renewed, Graça Machel, said, “We have 500 days, every day counts, every action counts and every life counts.”

The 2014 Partners Forum also released long-awaited reports focusing on the fourth and fifth MDGs of improving maternal and newborn health. The World Health Assembly’s “Every Newborn Action Plan” and the “Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health Report” both provided information on the progress made towards these two goals, but also gave statistics proving that maternal and child mortality rates are still too high.

Many agree that the MDGs have had mixed results since the success rate of each goal varies according to a specific region or country. At the Beijing+20 Conference held at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, the Executive Director of the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, called the progress of the MDGs a “mixed bag” since the results have been so inconsistent. According to Mlambo-Ngcuka, education “is probably the closest thing the world has to a silver bullet.”

Countries that are finding it more difficult to achieve these goals are now looking to countries that have made significant progress in the fight against global poverty since 2000. According to the 2014 Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health report, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, Vietnam, China, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Lao PDR, Bangladesh and Cambodia are the top ten countries that have not only progressed, but are also on-track to achieving the fourth and fifth MDGs.

Although the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will not be agreed upon until later this year, this new set of goals is expected to both revise and expand on the current MDGs to continue the fight against global poverty. Despite the various setbacks countries and regions have faced in achieving the MDGs, the fact that some progress has been recognized proves that establishing an official list of goals is an effective way to alleviate global poverty.

-Meghan Orner

Sources: The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health 1, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health 2,, Global Post
Photo: GBCHealth