Dispatch

Pacific leadership pivotal in global health initiative - Every Women, Every Child, Every Adolescent, Everywhere

8 October 2015

As nations that greet the new day before any other region in the world, the Pacific collection are well-positioned to claim a lead role in the realisation of global strategy for women's, children's and adolescents' health.

The Millennium Development Goals has affirmed how time-bound and monitored albeit non-legally-binding objectives can accelerate regional and national progress in the realisation of human rights for all, the alleviation of poverty, the improvement of gender equality dynamics and so forth.

No one can claim perfection in the realisation of development goals and plans, as each country has unique realities to work with, different priorities and approaches, but as nations still in their socio-political infancy, the Pacific nations have remarkably made their presence known and issues felt at international fora.

As we embark on the journey that is the Sustainable Development Goals with its specificity of reference to climate change and oceans, Pacific nation leaders have been loud and proud, affirming their support for each other particularly in relation to climate change talks.

The Pacific leadership can also play a pivotal role in, and create, waves of change from the southern hemisphere in a completely different sector though one that is fundamental for a resilient population in climate change adaptation talk, and that is: good health of every woman, every child and every adolescent, everywhere.

Regionally-speaking, there is political will for decisive action in regional development frameworks supportive of international commitments while providing perimeters of the creation of an enabling environment for addressing the interplay between climate change and reproductive, maternal, newborn, children's and adolescents' health (RMNCAH).

  • The 2015 46th Pacific Islands Forum communique recognised climate change as the "single greatest threat" to the existence of Oceania peoples and the "disproportionate impact of climate change on women"; there is a separate climate change declaration from the meeting.
     
  • The 2015 Suva Declaration on Climate Change affirms in (16) i.e "…addressing gender-based inequality and discrimination is essential for effective action on climate change".
     
  • The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) urges "urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts" (SDG 13).
     
  • The 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction frames such development and humanitarian integration as both important and urgent stating that countries should: "Strengthen the design and implementation of inclusive policies and social safety-net mechanisms, including through community involvement, integrated with livelihood enhancement programs, and access to basic health care services including maternal, newborn and child health, sexual and reproductive health, food security"

Consider a legacy of this time and age, with all the advanced medical knowledge and services humanity claims to have, that 800 women continue to die daily from preventable pregnancy and childbirth complications. The majority of these maternal deaths are attributed to hemorrhage (27 per cent), hypertensive disorder (14 per cent), sepsis (11 per cent) and complications of abortion (8 per cent).

Newborn deaths have actually declined by 40 per cent since 1990, though about 2.8 million newborns died in 2013 - newborn deaths account for 44 per cent of all deaths of children under 5, globally-speaking.

The three main causes of newborn births remain pre-term birth complications (35 per cent), intrapartum conditions (24 per cent) and infections (20 per cent).

Stillbirths have declined albeit a mere 15 per cent since 1995, an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths occurred globally in 2009.

The largely nonchalance attitude towards care before and around birth, and related health systems will be detrimental to any efforts to strengthen resilience in national populations.

Last week (September 28, 2015) the Global Strategy for Women's Children's and Adolescents' Health was launched by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General.

The initiative, representative of commitment of more than $US25 billion in the next five years, includes new policies and groundbreaking partnerships from 40 countries and over 100 international organisations, philanthropic foundations, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector.

The specificity of everywhere in the global movement borne out of RMNCAH (Every Women, Every Child, Every Adolescent, Everywhere) seeks to emphasise that this state of good health must include humanitarian or fragile situations.

RMNCAH in the context of climate change therefore is crucial for resilience - whether one is speaking of human population or ensuring an enabling environment for RMNCAH to thrive.

RMNCAH is crucial for strengthening of individual agency that collectively would give you your resilient population.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services recognising the critical importance of filling the gap in climate change adaptation discourse has invited its regional counterparts to discuss this very basic of health considerations between October 26 and 28.

The interplay between the impact of climate change and Pacific nations' status of RMNCAH exists; the shifting realities of humanitarian and fragile settings needs to be better anticipated, planned for and resourced.

Oceania nations and peoples face unique challenges being at the forefront of impacts of climate change: investments in health, wellbeing and dignity of women, young people and children have a powerful role in shoring up the resilience of island communities.

Discussing it at this level will also ensure that the Pacific voice will be loud and potentially cause ripples of change across global conversations come COP21 (21st session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, December 2015), the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2016 and/or the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador, October 2016.

No one can be left behind in development initiatives and global progress particularly in the context of humanitarian or fragile settings, expected to increase in the Pacific region because of global warming - no women, no child, no adolescent, because everyone counts.