Global Maternal Health Efforts Unleash Potentially 'Enormous' Good says Ban in UN Day Gala Address




The highlight address by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the 2011 United Nations Day Gala Dinner, was delivered by Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in New York on October 13. The transcript of the Secretary-General's statement follows.

I am pleased to send warm greetings to all participants in this year's United Nations Association-New York Humanitarian of the Year Awards. I am grateful to the United Nations Association of New York for its staunch support. And I especially welcome your holding this year's gala under the theme "Changing the World:  Partnerships in Maternal and Child Health."

I congratulate the winners of the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Johnson & Johnson has played a leading role in the Every Mother, Every Child initiative. Christy Turlington Burns and her organization, Every Mother Counts, have brought global attention to the importance of education and support for maternal and child health. Both honourees have shown great commitment in supporting this cause.

This issue is close to my heart. I did not learn about the risks to mothers and children from a policy brief or a documentary. I have been aware of their struggle for as long as I can remember. As a young boy in the Republic of Korea, I saw fear in the eyes of women going into labour; fear that they — or their babies — might not survive. My own mother lost two children before I was born.

Those times are long gone. The Republic of Korea is one of many countries proving that with the right care and services, women and children need not die from preventable causes. In all my talks and travels, I press leaders to make this happen. And I meet with affected women and children directly to show my solidarity.

Earlier this year, I visited a clinic in rural Nigeria. A woman named Vera Idoghor gave birth that day. Her story is the story of countless women in developing countries. She had been pregnant before, and lost her baby. But this time, with the care she received at the clinic, her baby survived. When we met, Vera herself was feeling strong and ecstatic.

I asked Vera what future she wanted for her daughter. She replied, "I have read about Florence Nightingale, and I would want her to do the same. I would want her to touch lives positively."

This story of surviving to give back can be multiplied hundreds of millions of times around the world. When we care for the health of every woman and every child, we will unleash an enormous force for global good.

Let us rededicate ourselves to this life-saving mission, which can usher in a better future for all.