Commission on Life-saving Commodities: Opening Remarks

Last updated: 5/23/2012 // Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg chaired the meeting of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children on Tuesday May 22, 2012. Here are his opening remarks to the Commissioners who were gathered at the UN headquarters in New York.

Good morning and welcome. I am pleased to see so many of you here.

Today we have a challenging but rewarding task in front of us: to come up with no more than 10 bold and impactful recommendations to save millions of women’s and children’s lives.
You are all familiar with these preventable tragedies.

Close to 300 thousand women die every year due to complications in pregnancy or childbirth and over 7 million children die before the age of 5.

The good news is that we are making progress. These deaths have been reduced by about 40% since 1990.

The day of birth is the most dangerous day in the life of a woman and her child. The fact that women do not get the care they need during childbirth is the most brutal expression of discrimination against women.

As outlined in the draft report in front of us, too often the life-saving medicines are not available to the women and children who need them.  For example, in the poorest countries where most of these deaths occur approximately one in four women have access to high quality medicines at the time of birth. More than 200 million women worldwide would like to postpone their next pregnancy or not have a child, but they lack access to effective contraception.

Clearly we can do better than this. Take vaccination as an example: 4 out of 5 children in the world are getting at least 3 shots of vaccines.

Medicines that stop dangerous bleeding and infection are not expensive. They cost only a few cents, not dollars.

This situation is not acceptable. We can do something about it. This is why we are here today. I would like to thank UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for championing this initiative and feel honored to co-chair this Commission, together with President Jonathan of Nigeria.

I want to thank the Contact Group, the Working Group members, and the Secretariat who have worked so hard to supply us with the analyses and documentation we need to make our meeting today a success.

As Commissioners we are here because we collectively have the knowledge and power to do something about the stark realities in front of us.

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