Tackling all three health MDGs key to improving maternal health

This week International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell made his first visit to the EU Foreign Affairs council, at which Ministers from across Europe will discuss a common EU position in advance of the September summit on the Millennium Development Goals, (the international development targets set by the UN in 2000 and targeted for completion by 2015).

Alongside this meeting was the discussion of a new progress report on the MDGs, in preparation for the MDG summit. Currently being drafted by the British MEP, Michael Cashman, this report so far highlights the relationship between all three health Millennium Development Goals (4, 5 and 6), and the benefit of the integration of services for these three goals can all bring to one another.  With many governments focusing on maternal health, given that it is the poorest performing health MDG, it is important not to lose sight of the impact that all the health MDGs have on each other and to take positive action in tackling these core issues together. The working document can be seen here.

The tuberculosis epidemic is a clear indicator of the inter-relatedness of the MDGs. TB is the biggest killer of people living with HIV, without treatment 90% of people living with HIV/AIDS who get TB will die. TB kills more women than all causes of maternal mortality combined, and the risk of giving birth prematurely or having a baby with low birth weight doubles for women with TB. Pregnant women with TB who receive a late diagnosis are four times as likely to die in childbirth and diagnosis of TB in children is particularly difficult, with a significant lack of paediatric tools. Combining efforts for MDGs 4, 5 and 6 by looking at cross-cutting issues like TB will make a significant impact on heading towards the targets of multiple MDGs.

It is surprising to note that no mention of the impact of sanitation has been made in this document. Water and Sanitation is in integral component to help achieve MDGs 4 and 5 on child and maternal health, and there is clear evidence to show that sanitation is an underlying factor that can ensure the success or failure of any health intervention.

While looking at integrating work on all three health MDGs it is also vital to look at the effectiveness of funding mechanisms and to review the impact made by aid spent.

The EU, along with other donors, set itself a 0.7% 2015 target and has since repeatedly reaffirmed it. However, even if it is leading the donor field in the march to 0.7%, the EU already looks set to fall a good EUR 20 billion short of its 2010 mid-term commitment. Some member states are way off target, while others are even scaling back on aid. Therefore it is good news that ahead of this meeting Andrew Mitchell called on EU nations to maintain their commitment to international aid, despite the financial crisis and recognising that “EU countries are important partners in the fight against poverty and need to show global leadership.”

When looking at reaching the targets set within the MDGs, it is easy to get sidetracked and concentrate on single components. But as promises were made to the poorest of the poor to ensure a better life, better health, then surely it is the moral obligation of all nations who agreed to the Millennium Development Goals to ensure that everything possible is done in order to achieve all the MDGs.

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