United Nations

Four Days to Go! 8 MDG: MDG 5: Improve Maternal Health

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Merlin maternal health clinic in Afghanistan
Merlin maternal health clinic in Afghanistan

AT only 15 days old, Louis Paul Coutts-Trotter carries the weight of a nation. He’s the son of ALP Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek. Welcome to a wonderful world Louis!

  • More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them — 99 per cent — in developing countries.
  • The maternal mortality rate is declining only slowly, even though the vast majority of deaths are avoidable.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s maternal mortality risk is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.
  • Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.

Today with only four days until the punishing task of running 10 sub-marathons across the globe inside of 30 days we turn to look at the fifth Millennium Development Goal- Improving Maternal Health.

The United Nations (UN) has two targets to meet this goal:

  • Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
  • Achieve universal access to reproductive health

So, what does the UN have to say about progress? Here are some comments directly from the UN:

  • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
  • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
  • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  • More women are receiving antenatal care
  • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
  • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
  • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
  • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
  • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed
  • Use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education
  • Inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health

Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking. That is a strong choice of words from the UN. That is a concern.

Maternal mortality is declining, but more needs to be done. This report from the UN gives a good visual description of where the gap lies through use of comparative graphs. Take a look.

Don’t we all wish that every child and mother could enjoy the health and opportunity like Louis and Tanya.

(Please play Six Bridges of Separation- forward this to someone you know and see how long it takes to get to Tanya Plibersek. I’ll send out a blog once I hear back from her to let you know how long it took! Are we really that connected?!)




The Near Bank of the Bridge: Wrap up from New York

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TEHRAN. With the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ah...
Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

So what came out of the United Nations High-Level Summit to discuss the Millennium Development Goals late last month?

The irony of spending a lot of money for people to gather together and talk about poverty is something I am still thinking about…

The drama and grandiose of visiting the United Nations in New York must be appealing. Certainly this was reflected in Meredith Burgmann’s comments in an Op-Ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Meredith Burgmann, a former NSW ALP MP, is president of the Australian Council for International Development, and was part of the Australian delegation to the UN Conference on the Millennium Development Goals.

Disappointing progress in many areas.
Many failed promises blamed on the global financial crisis.
The meeting was overshadowed by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, alleging the September 11 attacks were an American conspiracy in a separate meeting a few days after the Conference.

The New York Conference marks the beginning of a bridge I am defining for the 10 City Bridge Run.
It is the near bank.
Where we cross first.

The far bank defining the other side of the bridge is the G20 Summit.
Another important meeting of institutional and national leaders.
The G20 describes itself as the premier forum for international economic cooperation: “Our goal is to strengthen the global financial system and build a global economy rooted in sustainable growth and prosperity for all”.

The span, the bit in between, is all of us. All of us. Our global village.
I contend that what happens between us is as important as what happens at the two institutional meetings.
That is what the 1o City Bridge Run is about.
It is all about you, and me, and everyone else. We are responsible.

Meredith made an interesting comment about the MDG 3 which I am focusing on today:

One of my particular passions – the third goal, which promises to promote gender equality and empower women – is hardly mentioned. Maternal deaths seem to be important but not the empowerment of women. Tucked away in a side report was the astonishing information that of the nine countries that still have no women in parliament, six were in the Pacific. The percentage of women in Pacific parliaments is 2.9 per cent and even the next worst, the Middle East, has 12 per cent. It is a total disgrace and unless Australia begins to use its influence with the male leaderships of these countries, nothing will change.

Meredith wove the importance of how there is interplay between the MDG:

Rudd is particularly concerned with goals four and five, which deal with maternal health and child mortality. Improvement in maternal death rates has slowed dramatically. More than 500,000 women die each year of pregnancy-related causes. Australia announces that it is part of a newly launched public/private global alliance with the US, Britain, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to meet goals four and five and pledges $1.6 billion to this alliance. Rudd also promises to allocate $5 billion to education, $1.8 billion to food security and $1.2 billion for action on climate change over the next five years.

Check her article out here.
It is interesting that the embedded video is about Australian domestic political point-scoring. Is that a tacit commentary in itself on the importance and impact this conference had on a broader level back home in Australia? Interesting to note that many of my friends still have no idea of what an ‘MDG’ actually is. I think we will all know in 2015, although will this be for the right reasons?

The Girl Effect: The Clock is Ticking

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My friend Tiffany sent me a wonderful link from The Girl Effect called The Clock is Ticking.

Watch it for yourself- it is its own explanation.

Tomorrow I will put focus on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015 . Let’s see what the assessment is from the United Nations on MDG 3. So far the scorecard looking at MDG 1 and 2 is not good for a complete successful achievement of the MDG.

This is why a focus on child mortality and women is so important. So many other factors are woven into the same solution. Hans Rosling explains this indirectly in this TED video in an earlier blog I recorded here.

The most productive 50 million ways to influence extreme poverty are primed ready to be enlisted in the fight. It is a resource and an opportunity that won’t stand still- it sits on a knife edge of time to be saved or exploited by the environment. Is there anything we can do to influence this situation?

8 Days to Go: 8 MDG. MDG 1- Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

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Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs- influential in the design of the MDG

Eight days to go until the first run on 14 October commencing the 10 City Bridge Run!

I thought it might be timely to revisit the Millennium Development Goals and try to shed some light on where progress is occurring. More importantly, also examine where the shortfall might occur on 2015.

Millennium Develop Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
There are three targets under this goal:

  1. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
  2. Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
  3. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Conflict and the global financial crisis is cited as the reason for a disappointing backsliding in some of the progress last decade. Some comments from the United Nations of progress are:

  • The global economic crisis has slowed progress, but the world is still on track to meet the poverty reduction target
  • Prior to the crisis, the depth of poverty had diminished in almost every region
  • Deterioration of the labour market, triggered by the economic crisis, has resulted in a decline in employment
  • As jobs were lost, more workers have been forced into vulnerable employment
  • Since the economic crisis, more workers find themselves and their families living in extreme poverty
  • Hunger may have spiked in 2009, one of the many dire consequences of the global food and financial crises
  • Progress to end hunger has been stymied in most regions
  • Despite some progress, one in four children in the developing world are still underweight
  • Children in rural areas are nearly twice as likely to be underweight as those in urban areas
  • In some regions, the prevalence of underweight children is dramatically higher among the poor
  • Over 42 million people have been uprooted by conflict or persecution

The one thought I want you to consider today

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Bridge in fog- hard to see the far bank

Where does the time go?!

Dear reader, thanks for your patience- it has been now about a week since I made my last post. A lot has happened in that time, and many ideas and thoughts to write about. I will endeavour to share some of that with you later today, but not everything at once.

A few updates about the 10 City Bridge Run.

Firstly, I’m pleased to say that enough funding through sponsorship has been received to make this endeavour possible, that is to commence the journey. While the first hurdle is cleared, there is still a fair distance down the track to cover.

Secondly, a quick note about date changes. The date for the commencement of the 10 City bridge Run has now slipped twice. I want to be open about the planning to share with you the challenges and difficulties I am encountering. I think to present the vulnerabilities and uncertainties, for all its lumpiness is important in learning to take the crunchy with the smooth as Billy Bragg might say. Let’s be clear that this is an ambitious and difficult venture with a deliberate tagline of “Is the seemingly impossible possible?” At the same time, for as much of the experiential learning that might come from this to mirror an understanding of the challenges to eradicate extreme poverty, it also should be acknowledged that there is a difference between the two. We all have a choice to some degree of what difficulties that come into our lives: those in extreme poverty do not.

The reasons for the date changes relate to a number of issues. The most significant is the clearance of funding through PayPal. This issue has been resolved, although may still have some impact on successfully initiating the run on 8 October. Make no mistake: the run is going ahead, and the objective to present a pictorial petition to the G20 Summit remains a key outcome.

There are two institutional events framing this initiative- two bridge supports if you like. The United Nations Conference which commenced on 20 September and the G20 Summit in November. The last date to commence the running is 14 October should the time need to slip another few days. This would involve an (already identified) curatorial team in Seoul compiling the petition and presenting it to the G20 Summit on our behalf prior to the last leg of the 10 City Bridge Run coinciding in Seoul with the last day of the G20 Summit.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts about how the 10 City Bridge Run might be better organised, communicated and presented. I am particularly interested to know what your response is to the changing of dates. If it frustrates you or disappoints you, if you feel let down or if it challenges your confidence, or if you see this as an unwanted but inevitable part of attempting something that is difficult. Or maybe you are happy to just watch it unfold without having an opinion- that is fine as well.

Just a thought from me I ask you to consider: if you are disappointed by these date changes which have minor consequences apart from how to organise the delivery of the petition, how did you feel after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and how will you react in 2015 when the United Nations is called to report on the Millennium Development Goals?

New York- UN MDG Summit Offers Hope

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United Nations

This week in New York, a United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit is underway.

10 years after the Millennium Development Goals were first announced, this is an opportunity for the world leaders of 150 countries to come together and review progress.

Australia is represented by our Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd.

What can we expect from this conference? The news bulletins have rung with the sounds of billions of dollars expenditure, and initiatives for improving education, health and eradicating poverty. What happens once the bureaucrats and politicians have finished on Wednesday? Is it really that easy to solve extreme poverty?

Translating the media spin into meaningful action is important. But it is good this Summit is being received with such optimism offering a hopeful future. A big change from Copenhagen.

See what AusAID, Australia’s Aid Program had to say here.

Please support the 10 City Bridge Run to highlight small actions which will make a big difference in showing that the impossible can be possible. Please sponsor me with $24 here.

10 City Bridge Run- Objectives 1, 2, 3.

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Display inside UN NY: Malaria kills 700,000 children every year. Child mortality is complex with many causes

There are three objectives for the 10 City Bridge Run:

  1. Raise the awareness of an individual’s capacity to act to positively influence the eradication of extreme poverty from our world.
  2. Make representation of a global ‘pictorial petition’ to the G20 leadership at the 2010 G20 Summit to be held in Seoul as well as to the United Nations Secretary General. The ‘pictorial petition’ will be in the form of a book featuring 24,000 photographs of people as ‘bridge builders’- connecting with each other symbolically to raise the awareness of this issue.
  3. Identify 10 actionable items which people across the globe can participate in which will make a difference over the next five years to help in the eradication of extreme poverty. These action items are not pre-determined, and will be arrived through a crowd-sourcing process during the month of running.

Join us on the journey: be part of the difference that makes a difference.