Australian aid saving the lives of more women and children

Media release

New York

22 September 2010

Australia is committed to saving the lives of women and children in developing countries who die needlessly from pregnancy and childbirth related complications and common childhood illnesses.

At today's launch of the UN Secretary-General's 'Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health', the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced that Australia plans to spend at least $1.6 billion improving the health of women and children over the next five years.

This spending is part of Australia's commitment to increase total aid levels to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015-16.

'In 2010, we should not still be seeing women die in childbirth because they don't have access to a trained health worker. We should not be seeing children dying from vaccine-preventable disease,' Mr Rudd said.

'As a global community, we have made progress. The number of women dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent since 1990.

But we can do better,' said Mr Rudd.

'Over 350,000 women and girls die each year from largely preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. And each year over 8 million children die, including 3.5 million newborn babies.

'The progress has not been good enough for women in countries like PNG, who are 80 times more likely to die in childbirth or pregnancy than an Australian woman,' said Mr Rudd.

As part of this enhanced support, Mr Rudd announced a program of $140 million over five years to improve maternal and child health in eastern Africa.

This will focus initially on Ethiopia, Tanzania and Southern Sudan, and build on long standing support provided to the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital and to UNICEF's Children and AIDS Initiative in Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

The new Africa program is in addition to the $85 million announced at the recent Pacific Islands Forum to help achieve the health Millennium Development Goals in PNG and the Pacific.

Australia's $A1.6 billion support is part of the UN Secretary General's $US40 billion drive which the UN estimates will save the lives of 15 million children under five and prevent 740,000 women from dying from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth between 2011 and 2015.

Also today, Mr Rudd, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Melinda Gates launched a new Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health. This will see the development agencies of Australia, the United States and United Kingdom and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation join forces to maximise their impact on saving the lives of women and children by coordinating efforts to train midwives, extend family planning services and make health services more accessible.

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