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Real progress in New York on health workers

Cars are honking, sirens are blaring and traffic is a standstill – the universal signs that national leaders from all over the world are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. 

Almost every year, Save the Children makes the pilgrimage to New York to influence the events and meetings that take place on the periphery of the official UN proceedings.  These side-events are usually where most of the action is – and this year was no different.

In the UK and around the world, and with over 300 partner organisations including the White Ribbon Alliance and the International Confederation of Midwives, we’ve been campaigning all year to close the gap on the global shortage of 3.5 million health workers. 

Holding to account

And we’ve come to New York to press governments to commit more resources for additional health workers and to hold governments to account for their past promises and commitments to save mothers’ and children’s lives.

But not everything we do is always so serious.  This year, we kicked off our health worker campaign activities by taking over Times Square, one of the busiest – and loudest – places in New York City, and the perfect place to make sure the voices of campaigners and health workers are heard. 

Much of our campaigning and advocacy had been focussed on seeing a result at an event that took place this past Tuesday. 

Campaign success

That afternoon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted an event on his Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, a global framework he launched at last year’s UN Summit to speed up progress on achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, to significantly reduce maternal and child deaths by 2015. 

This year’s event was an opportunity for countries to report back on the promises they made last year – and for organisations like Save the Children to hold governments to account. 

The event was also an opportunity for countries to make new commitments – and we were hoping that there would be new commitments to provide additional health workers in the countries that need them most. 

More health workers

Many of the commitments were not said at the event, but were included in the Secretary-General’s official report – and it’s clear our campaigning and advocacy has made an impact. 

Of the more than 40 new commitments to the Secretary-General’s strategy, 25 of those included measures to increase the number of health workers.  Importantly, the UK government pledged more health workers for South Africa and Uganda. 

We came to New York carrying the messages and the voices of campaigners from around the world who want to make sure that every woman and every child is within reach of a health worker. 

Significant progress

We made significant progress towards closing the gap on the global health worker shortage, and while there still work to be done, there is much to be hopeful about. 

Our campaigning and advocacy has raised the profile on the global health worker shortage, we have moved health workers up the global health agenda, and we have shown the world’s leaders that we will hold them to account.

Earlier in the day, we got together with celebrities, health workers and mums to take over New York’s iconic Times Square to mark the launch of our new report on the global health crisis, No Child Out of Reach.


The report highlights the shocking fact that 350 million children, that’s more than the entire population of the USA, never see a health worker during their lives.

Joined by actress Alexis Bledel, Dr Joan Shepherd, a midwife from Sierra Leone, Chris Mosler, our mummy blogger, and mums with babies in slings, we created a giant human mosaic in the centre of Times Square with the simple message: Health Workers Save Lives.

We’ve been lucky to have Chris Mosler, mummy blogger extraordinaire with us.  Chris has attended and blogged about all the major events here in New York and has been spending much of her time at the Social Good Summit, just up the road from the UN,

There bloggers and vloggers from around the world have gathered to hear what innovations and new technologies organisations are using to engage campaigners and the public in their causes.  Read her blog to get all the details.

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