World Health Assembly 2014 — 3 things to look out for in Geneva

Written by Cécile Vernant, head of EU advocacy for Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung on the Devex blog

“This week, the World Health Assembly in Geneva brings with it a packed agenda and a whole host of questions around a number of key issues for global health policy makers.

In a critical period for the crafting of the post-2015 framework, this WHA will provide important signposts as to the likely focus and priorities ahead of September’s U.N. General Assembly in New York. A key focus of these discussions is likely to center on maternal and child health, especially given the lack of progress made on the health Millennium Development Goals.

As we head toward an exciting week of discussion and debate, there are three key issues to watch out for:

1. Charting a course for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

Of all the issues up for discussion during the WHA, reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health looks set to be among the top priorities. Globally, out of nearly three million babies that die in the first month of life, 2.6 million of these are stillborn and approximately 287,000 women die every year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

The WHA will vote this week on a resolution to adopt the World Health Organization’s newEvery Newborn Action Plan. ENAP has been developed in the framework of WHO’s Every Mother, Every Child initiative as a roadmap to prevent these deaths, aiming to set out a clear vision to improve maternal and newborn health by 2035. It will seek to do so through cost-effective investments in care at birth, improving health systems and harnessing the potential of research and development investment to deliver new, effective and accessible medical interventions for pregnant women and newborns.

Improved newborn health and survival is closely linked to the continuum of care between sexual, reproductive, maternal and child health and to the health of mothers — many of them young and adolescent women. Responding holistically to pregnancy in adolescence, supporting women to prevent unintended pregnancies, as well as empowering girls and young women to take control of their own sexual health, will be crucial components of a successful action plan. Similarly, research on innovative health solutions to improve newborn and maternal health is needed.

Given that the WHA will play host to numerous debates and side events on ENAP, this week represents an important opportunity for civil society to have a final input on its direction.”

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