International aid agency World Vision has applauded the international community’s renewed commitment to tackling child and maternal deaths, with more than $40 billion committed to the UN Secretary General’s global strategy for women’s and children’s health.
“Coming away from the meeting, we have a genuine sense that there is renewed focus in the international community on maternal and child health, the two Millennium Development Goals that are most off track,” said Tim Costello, World Vision Australia chief executive.
“All countries have committed to the UN Secretary General’s strategy for women and children's health, and the announced funding is a strong first step towards genuine progress on this issue.
“Australia is committing A$1.6 billion over the 5 years to 2015 to the strategy. This is a strong, welcome commitment from the Australian Government which will be possible because of Australia’s commitment to lift aid to 0.5% of gross national income,” he said.
Mr Costello said the $85 million earmarked for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, announced at the Pacific Islands Forum last month, was particularly urgent.
“I visited Papua New Guinea last month, and frankly I was horrified at the plight of pregnant women there. This funding will be invested in skilled health workers, including midwives, and is desperately needed.”
Mr Costello said Australia had performed strongly at the New York meetings and focused on what matters most – meeting existing commitments to the poorest communities and working effectively with other nations.
“While the Australian Government has not always committed its fair share in international aid, we do have an excellent record of keeping our promises – and that was one of World Vision’s key asks of the international community going into this meeting.”
In the wake of the UN summit, Mr Costello said he would like to see the Australian Government increase commitment to the Global Fund of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Global Fund is coming up for replenishment at the beginning of October. Australia's fair share of the cost is A$170 million per year, up from the current level of funding of around $A45 million per year.
“The Global Fund is a very effective mechanism, ensuring accountability and donor coordination. The work of the Global Fund and the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments appears to have paid off with an encouraging drop in new HIV infection rates in Papua New Guinea,” said Mr Costello.
“Supporting the Global Fund is a smart investment in saving lives.”
Mr Costello said progress towards the Millennium Development Goals on child and maternal health would need to be reassessed in 2012 to see if more effort was required.
Tim Costello is available for interview. Please contact Dominic McInerney on 0428 584 809.