Children should have the same life-chances no matter where they are bornby Joe Cerrell / December 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
If you give birth to a child in the UK in 2016 you might have a number of hopes for their future: a successful education, a place at university, a career, a family of their own. But if your child were to be born somewhere else in the world, in one of the countries where one billion people who still live on less than $1.25 a day reside, your hopes would be altogether different. Instead you’d be hoping for basic healthcare, critical vaccinations, food and clean water.
Eradicating this geographic lottery of birth is the critical challenge of our age; and to meet that challenge we need to start with birth itself, with women and children.
Investing in women is crucial for reducing global inequality because of the knock-on effect it has for all of society. When we invest in a woman’s health it has a ripple effect on her life, her economic future, and the lives of all those around her. When a woman has access to contraceptives she is more likely to survive childbirth and have healthy babies. She also invests in her children’s health and education through childhood and adolescence. When we invest in women, we invest in the people who invest in everyone else.
Immense progress has been made. Since 1990 maternal mortality and global under-five mortality have both been cut nearly in half. The overall global gender disparity in primary and secondary education has been eradicated. And extreme poverty has been halved.
But to ensure the health and well-being of every woman, child and adolescent a great deal more remains to be done; and with a $33.3 billion funding gap for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in high-burden, low- and lower-middle-income countries, a new model of funding was clearly required.
Every Woman, Every Child is the global movement set up to meet that challenge head on, the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health the plan, and the Global Financing Facility a promising new funding mechanism.
Together this trio of interventions aim to ensure that no woman, child or adolescent should face a greater risk of preventable death because of where they live or who they are.
Led by national governments, the Global Financing Facility is trying to ensure smart, scaled and sustainable funding, connecting governments with the public and private sector organisations that have the expertise and funding to help. In so doing countries can plug the funding gap that currently exists.
This isn’t just about finding the money however. It’s also about using that money in a smart and sustainable way. The GFF helps ensure that the money is used in the most effective way on the things that work. And by empowering national governments to create solutions that are sustainable, it allows countries to take advantage of the increased prosperity that comes from guaranteeing that every woman and every child has access to basic healthcare.
In Cameroon, for example, the GFF is helping to improve childhood nutrition, including through exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life. Breastfeeding helps optimise nutrition and improves health and development. If used exclusively for the first six months, it can also act as the first vaccine a baby receives. It provides nutrition, and cells from the mother’s gut are transferred to the child providing vital protection. Increasing breastfeeding globally could prevent over 820,000 child deaths each year. This is just one example of what can happen when resources and evidence are used at scale to target a specific need.
And in Kenya, another country targeted by the GFF, great strides are being made with sexual and reproductive health through innovative incentive schemes. The Performance Based Financing scheme encourages mothers to give birth in clinics and subsequently have access to vital maternal care. Clinics, health workers and mothers all receive incentives. One clinic in Samburu County has seen the number of births that take place in the clinic each month rise from 62 in 2010 to 249 in 2014. The incentives also encourage mothers to continue receiving treatment from the clinic and vaccinate their children. This not only saves lives, but gives each life a much better chance of fulfilling her potential.
Reducing inequality is about allowing people to have the same hopes and aspirations regardless of where they were born. To do this we need to focus on every woman, and every child.