White Ribbon Alliance

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UNGA 2016 – Reflections on Progress Made

September 15, 2016
By Betsy McCallon, CEO, White Ribbon Alliance

As we prepare for the 71st UN General Assembly meetings in New York, we’re very excited to host several of our National Alliance colleagues throughout the week’s events and share their inspiring stories of advocating for women and newborns. We will also be sharing progress made toward our commitments to the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, made this time last year.

Just one year ago, White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) committed USD $6,500,000 over three years to ensure that women, adolescents and newborns in at least eight countries would receive improved reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) services through meaningful citizen engagement and accountability. Additionally, Bayer and WRA committed to the prevention of maternal, newborn and child death through self-care policy advancement and community level intervention programs in the areas of nutrition, birth preparedness and newborn care.

Through its ongoing Citizens’ Advocacy initiatives, WRA embodies the Every Woman, Every Child spirit by creating real, lasting change in communities around the world. Nowhere is this clearer than in Uganda, where WRA led the successful “Act Now to Save Mothers” campaign that called on the government of Uganda to deliver on its commitments to maternal and newborn healthcare. As a result of WRA’s work, women reported improved access to life-saving services closer to their homes and district officials have commended White Ribbon Alliance for bridging the gap between citizens and policy makers and strengthening the health system to better respond to community needs.

In Tanzania, where more than 24 women and 144 newborns die each day due to labor complications and lack of quality care, WRA’s advocacy work is focusing on securing adequate financial investments and policies from the government in Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC). WRA’s successful “Be Accountable So Mothers Can Live” campaign saved lives in the Rukwa region of Tanzania by providing health services that were previously unavailable. With success in Rukwa, WRA Tanzania is now looking to replicate the campaign across the country.

In 2016, WRA National Alliances in 11 countries launched new advocacy and accountability initiatives focused on, among other things, improving life-saving emergency maternal and newborn health services, tackling adolescent pregnancies, ensuring women receive respectful maternity care, promoting the importance of self-care during pregnancy, and supporting health workers to effectively deliver their vital care.

In July 2016, WRA, with the support of Bayer, published Self-Care: A Cost Effective Solution for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health for All, a policy paper outlining the benefits and barriers to maternal and newborn health self-care policies and practices and recommendations at the global, national, and local levels. This was completed after extensive research, first line interviews and a global meeting to discuss recommendations with experts in the field of RMNCAH, community health, quality of health and self-care. Those who have consulted have been and continue to be champions and a global advocacy arm to support White Ribbon Alliance’s self-care policy platform.

WRA has also launched two self-care community implementation projects. The first, led by WRA Zimbabwe, is located in the district of Kwekwe, in the Midlands province. It began with a planning workshop, which included board members, Ministry of Health and district leaders, doctors and religious leaders to define and develop a self-care solution to address the high levels of maternal death in Kwekwe. The self-care initiative in Zimbabwe will address both access to care and quality of care to ensure more women seek antenatal care. The project will work with community members to sensitize them to self-care as a community care solution and support extended quality training for health care workers.

The second project, led by WRA Bangladesh is located in Galachipa under Patuakhali district. Galachipa is an underdeveloped sub-district of Bangladesh, where skilled services and modern communication structures are inaccessible. High maternal and newborn mortality rates continue to be a challenge; only 42% of women have access to medically trained attendants at birth, of those who have access, only 18% of the lowest wealth quintile are attended by medically trained providers, while 6.8% of births are a c-section. Later this month, WRA will lead a planning session to launch a year-long project. This session will develop milestones and evaluation mechanism to leverage self-care as a solution to access and community care.

Only one year in, we’re proud of the progress on our commitment and remain resolved to do more to advance the Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent agenda. As we move forward, we will deepen our efforts for meaningful accountability to citizens, to strengthen the feedback loop from global and national leaders to local citizens, and expand the movement calling for quality, equity, and dignity for every woman, every newborn, everywhere.