The following post was written by Dr. Carole Presern, executive director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. As a Partnership member, CHMI partners with PMNCH for research and program identification activities.
Last week, about 1,200 of us from 60 or more countries gathered for the Partners’ Forum, hosted by the Government of South Africa, PMNCH, Countdown to 2015, A Promise Renewed and the independent Expert Review Group. This was the first time in nearly four years that the seven PMNCH constituency groups have met together , since our last Partners’ Forum in New Delhi in 2010. Then, we were 400 members and the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health had just taken wing. Now, we look ahead to the final 500 days of the Millennium Development Goal era with a sense of accomplishment and urgency. We have to balance the need to focus on the forgotten – the hard to reach whose lives are at the centre of all we do – with the urgency of maintaining the world’s attention on healthy women and children in the new Sustainable Development Goals.
There was plenty of dynamism, energy and inspiration to go round. From the commitment of national leaders, including Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, to the stirring legacy of Madiba, so movingly evoked by our board chair Mrs Graça Machel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We were very fortunate to have Ministers, Heads of Agencies - WHO’s Dr Margaret Chan, and UNFPA’s Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin – representatives of the Secretary-General, traditional leaders, civil society, private sector and of course heads of Health Care Professional Associations and our academic and scientific friends. This was a Partners’ Forum like none other. And what particularly made it special for many of us were the more than 100 youth leaders who came to Johannesburg and developed their own Youth Outcome Document – a call to action that joins us all. As the young members of the Soweto Gospel Choir sang out to us: “This little light of mine (I’m going to let it shine)”. Indeed, they did.
What has also been unique this time was the co-hosting with the five partners, and the timing, for our collective drive in these last 550 days and as the post 2015 negotiations reach a critical point. This has truly been an extraordinary few months for women’s and children’s health.
The 2014 Partners’ Forum was also a platform to launch some much-awaited reports: The Every Newborn Action Plan (along with 40 commitments to Every Woman Every Child), the Countdown to 2015 report and the Success Factors report. Through the Success Factors we highlighted the importance of working with sectors beyond health. We were privileged to have ministers and many experts lend their voices and expertise to our panels and plenaries, including Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Nigeria’s Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu, and Vietnam’s Minister of Health, Nguyen Thi Kim Tien. We were truly inspired by their vision and commitment to the collective cause and to their countries.
The meeting resulted in a draft Partners’ Forum communiqué; the most recent shared here. In the words of Mrs Graça Machel: “Every day counts, every action counts and every life counts. And when we care enough to act together, we can achieve greater results and better impact”.
A thousand times ndiyabulela, siyabonga, and thanks to all for helping make this meeting inspiring and insightful. Now onwards to 2015.
Photo: Dr. Carol Presern © Lars Solberg