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Accountability to children starts here

Back in January, I wrote about a commission of policy makers and health experts created to implement a new global strategy to improve women and children’s health. Over the past six months the Commission on Information and Accountability has been working hard to develop a mechanism to ensure that the strategy is not only implemented but has a real impact on the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable women and children.

The Commission’s recommendations were launched this week at the World Health Assembly and I was lucky enough to be there as WHO director-general,  Margaret Chan, and other members of the Commission presented an advance copy of the commission’s report to a full house.

As the name of the commission implies, accountability is the key principle behind this report. As Tanzania’s minister of health explained “every dollar [invested in maternal, newborn and child health] must be accountable”. Commitments made need to be honoured and progress tracked.

The report contains a set of 10 ambitious but practical recommendations that will improve tracking of resources for women and children’s health, provide better oversight of health outcomes at national and global levels, and ensure that countries have the information they need to better inform their policies and practices.

The creation of a strong Independent Expert Review Group – as proposed by the Commission – reporting to the UN Secretary General, will be crucial in turning pledges into reality.

Francesco Aureli welcomed the report on behalf of Save the Children and said that we know that the poorest women and children are less likely to get access to the health care that they need, so the Commission’s focus on equity and the right to health is very important. He reiterated the importance of ensuring that we reach every woman and every child.

A further 16 countries announced new commitments to Every Woman, Every Child at the event, demonstrating that momentum behind the strategy is still building.

The pledges included increasing national health budgets, scaling up the number of health workers, introducing free health care to women and children, increasing the number of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants and strengthening programmes to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV.

These are all things that Save the Children has been calling for as part of our child survival campaign so the announcements were extremely welcomed. We hope that even more countries will make ambitious announcements over the next few months.

As John McNee, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said “the real work has just begun”.

We now need to implement these recommendations to ensure that money invested in maternal, newborn and child health is well spent and results are delivered.

Although the majority of children and families in greatest need will never know about the Commission or its report, we need to ensure that they benefit from it.

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