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Strengthening Health Systems to Respond to Needs of Women and Girls Must be a Political Priority
September 14, 2011

“Applying a Human Rights Based Approach to Efforts to Eliminate Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity”

HRC September 14, 2011 Side Event

U.S. Statement, delivered by Ambassador Donahoe


Thank you to all of the esteemed speakers here today. The United States is proud to be one of the co-sponsors of this side event on eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. More than a decade after the UN established Millennium Development Goals concerning maternal and child health, global maternal and child mortality rates remain too high.

The means exist to save the lives of women and children. Strengthening health systems to better respond to the needs of women and girls must be a political priority.

The Human Rights Council is one of several UN bodies which has demonstrated the political will to address this issue. We thank Colombia and New Zealand for their leadership on initiating that resolution. In June 2009, HRC member states adopted by consensus a resolution on “Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights.” As a member of the HRC coalition supporting this initiative, let me mention some key examples of U.S. actions to combat maternal mortality domestically and globally. Within the U.S., new health care reform legislation expanded coverage and improved access to preventative care. Programs such as “Healthy Start” provide primary and preventative care to high-risk pregnant women.

On our international efforts, the United States has been working to provide technical leadership in this area of family planning. In FY 2010, a total of $648.5 million was appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs. The FY 2011 budget included $615 million in funding for family planning and reproductive health, including $40 million designated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Through the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. commits billions of dollars to improving global health, including efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality; prevent millions of unintended pregnancies; and thwart millions of new HIV infections. Through the Global Health Initiative, we provide a range of integrated, essential services for women and their children: skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period; family planning; prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria; and child health interventions.

During the 2010 Commission on the Status of Women session, 15 years after the Beijing Women’s Conference, the U.S. was part of a cross-regional group of co-sponsors who introduced a resolution on “Eliminating maternal mortality and morbidity through the empowerment of women.” While progress has been made on the Beijing agenda, much more remains to be done.

The U.S. looks forward to continued partnerships to improve maternal and child health and contributing to progress in this area where we can.