Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the High-Level Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Event, UN General Assembly, New York, USA, 18 September 2023
Your Excellency, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, Board Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health,
Your Excellency Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen,
UNICEF Executive Director, Dr Catherine Russell,
Vice President of Global Programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Prof Senait Fisseha,
Members of Delegations and Officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you all to this important gathering, which marks the beginning of our journey together to protect women, children and adolescents worldwide.
I thank Her Excellency Helen Clark for inviting me to lead this vital initiative.
If we secure the health of every woman, child and adolescent, we will fundamentally improve the health and well-being of all humanity.
We will lift millions of people out of poverty and advance the cause of human progress. We will help close the gap between women and men.
I am therefore particularly heartened that we have managed to convene a diverse group of leaders and advocates, from Heads of State to young leaders.
Women, children and adolescents continue to face escalating challenges to their health and well-being.
Almost 800 women still die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-five percent of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing health inequality.
Over 10 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. Sixty-seven million children have missed out on the routine vaccines, and 80 percent of children have lost learning time due to school closures.
The long-term effects of underdeveloped children on our respective economies will be devastating.
Over 1.5 million adolescents and young adults aged 10–25 died in 2021, most due to causes that are entirely preventable.
These were young people who should have been growing, thriving and developing the communities of tomorrow.
This 78th Session of the UN General Assembly is an opportunity to take stock. It is an opportunity to agree on bold steps to accelerate the actions needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being.
The Global Leaders Network is an opportunity for Heads of State and Government and other leaders to work together to champion the women, children and adolescent health agenda.
I invite Heads of State to join this effort. I would also like to thank Heads of State that have taken up this course.
As Heads of State, we can provide leadership and inspire ambitious action. We have the convening power to mobilise our peers and advance policies, programmes and financing initiatives for improved outcomes.
The leaders of BRICS and G20 countries are particularly well-positioned to advance progress for the most vulnerable women, children and adolescents.
As part of our agenda, we must challenge the disregard in many communities and countries for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.
We must ensure that these issues are openly discussed and addressed.
To advance these rights, to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health, we have to end gender-based violence.
The World Bank has reported that nearly a third of women around the world have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
It is now more than evident that countries must reduce inequality in access to health care. This inequality is catastrophic for economies, political stability, health security and human rights.
Political leadership means both action and accountability. It involves the will to make deliberate policy decisions to accelerate progress for women, children and adolescents.
Effective leadership champions collaboration to strengthen health and related sectors and to engage women and girls meaningfully in health systems and their reform.
In many countries, international donor financing for health is waning and fragmented. This is compounded by the diversion of domestic funding away from women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other priorities.
The poor economic outlook and limited fiscal space in many countries heighten these challenges.
Investing in interventions for women, child and adolescent health yields social and economic benefits that continue throughout life and for generations to come.
If, between now and 2035, we were to invest $5 per person per year in health systems and high-impact health interventions for women and children in high-burden countries, the value of the economic and social benefits would be nine times greater than that amount.
Every dollar invested in child immunisation brings at least $20 in benefits. And every dollar invested in selected adolescent health interventions yields a 10-fold return in health, social and economic benefits.
The Global Leaders Network will advocate for sustained and enhanced financial investments, contributing to the growth of nations and enabling individuals to reach their highest potential.
We will also advocate for improved alignment of global financing mechanisms to foster better investment in strategic priorities to meet the health and well-being needs of women, children and adolescents.
Close monitoring and accountability across national, regional and global platforms is essential.
As Heads of State and Government, we can share the models being implemented in our countries and exchange best practices.
As South Africa, for example, we have made important strides in areas of health care. New HIV infections decreased by 48 per cent between 2010 and 2019 as the country expanded HIV treatment and voluntary medical male circumcision.
We remained committed to implement universal health coverage, through the establishment of a National Health Insurance, which will have far-reaching benefits for the access to health services for women, children and adolescents.
I am certain that with the joint stewardship of the Global Leaders, supported by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and other champions, we stand a far better chance of delivering on our promise to women, children and adolescents across the world.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency