Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary General and Madame Goli Ameri, Undersecretary General, Humanitarian Values and Diplomacy, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Whilst significant progress has been made on reducing child mortality over the past 50 years, it is recognized that the progress is not equitable. In rich and poor countries alike, the poorest and most disadvantaged children and mothers continue to miss out on life-saving interventions.
The next 1,000 days are critical. The achievement of Millennium Development Goals 3 through 6 (promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDs, malaria, TB and other diseases, ) and 8 (develop a global partnership for development) will require intensified efforts at all levels – increased political will at the international and national levels as well as an acknowledgment of the important role played by individuals themselves at the district, community and household levels.
As the world’s largest humanitarian organization, the Red Cross Red Crescent movement is privileged to play an active role in reducing vulnerabilities through its presence in the last mile and the most remote communities around the globe as well its participation at global and national decision-making tables.
As independent auxiliaries to their government- a unique relationship entailing mutual responsibilities and based on international and national laws - Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are well positioned to advocate for the increased political will that will be necessary to ensure the world’s sustained commitment to child survival and women’s health. National Societies support the achievement of national health priorities, with a focus on ensuring that the poorest and most disadvantaged children and mothers are able to access life-saving interventions.
The Red Cross Red Crescent 13 million strong volunteers, as members of their own communities, are familiar with their environments and know how best to bridge the social, cultural and other barriers that impede progress towards reducing preventable maternal and child deaths. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers extend health services beyond the health facility door through innovative operational models that are culturally appropriate, cost-effective and sustainable.
These volunteers have learned two important lessons from first-hand experience: 1. strengthening community action with innovative approaches ensures that health care reaches the most vulnerable, targets appropriate gatekeepers and crosses local barriers to uptake of health services; and 2. increased biological and community resilience is not something outsiders can do or bring to individuals or communities. The starting point for any humanitarian or development support must be recognition and appreciation of the efforts of individuals, households and communities to strengthen their own resilience.
The Red Cross Red Crescent fully support the commitment governments made in Busan in 2011, that “development strategies and programmes prioritise the building of resilience among people and societies at risk from shocks, especially in highly vulnerable settings.... Investing in resilience and risk reduction increases the value and sustainability of our development efforts.”
For example, most interventions related to maternal, new born and child health focuses primarily on improving women's knowledge and practices to maternal health issues. However, in most societies women are dependent on the male members of the family to either accompany or permit them or their children to seek medical care. Hence it is pertinent that men and boys are aware of risk factors women and girls (early marriages) can face during pregnancy and the consequent complications that may arise as a result.
These interventions which aim to build communities’ resilience and achieve improvements in maternal and child health need to involve the elders (both men and women), religious leaders and more specifically men and boys given their familial and social roles within communities in order to improve maternal and child health outcomes.
The world will stand accountable in one thousand days.