The United Nations (UN) convened a series of high-level meetings a few weeks ago to discuss global progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the roadmap for the post-MDG development agenda. The MDGs are a set of eight international objectives established by the UN in 2000 – objectives that all UN member states pledged to achieve by 2015. Participants in the recent discussions include leaders in business, government, and civil society, as well as the President of the General Assembly and top officials at the UN and World Bank.
The theme of the 68th session of the General Assembly, which began on September 13th, was “The Post -2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage.” Meant to assess headway made by current initiatives and flesh out the goals and execution of post-2015 development plans, the conference is of crucial interest to the One Million Community Health Workers (1mCHW) Campaign.
At its core, 1mCHW is a campaign to redouble global efforts toward meeting MDGs 4 , 5, and 6 (the “health MDGs”) as the 2015 deadline rapidly approaches. By supporting the upgrade and expansion of existing governmental and non-governmental community health worker (CHW) programs in sub-Saharan Africa, the Campaign is accelerating CHW scale-up and systematically improving healthcare in regions most in need. CHWs—lay community health providers—are a crucial component of any plan to reform African healthcare and broaden access to key resources. By advancing family and reproductive healthcare at the community level, CHWs can reduce maternal and infant mortality, address the drivers of several of the most preventable diseases, and reach rural communities that are not integrated into existing healthcare networks.
The Campaign focuses on sub-Saharan Africa because it is consistently far behind other developing regions in crucial development indicators, especially those related to healthcare. The maternal mortality rate in this region is 500 which represents 1 maternal death for every 200 live births. According to the most recent World Bank reports, 77 babies out of every 1000 die; almost one in ten infants will die before their first birthday; over one in ten children will die before the age of five. Any plan to meet the health related MDGs must direct significant attention toward these communities.
The Campaign was deeply gratified by the productive discussion at the UN, where world leaders took important steps in renewing their commitment to meet the MDG targets, recognizing the challenges and the gaps in achievement thus far, especially in the least-developed countries. The Outcome Document notes that “most African countries remain off-track in meeting the Goals…” The member countries, in strong language, committed to accelerating progress and to targeting the most off-track MDGs. The critical importance of global partnerships was emphasized, like the ones fostered every day by 1mCHW in areas of top priority. These UN discussions will surely frame the future of international development. A global agenda—like the MDGs—is only as successful as the projects, research, and innovation that it inspires. 1mCHW is one example of the way that broad UN initiatives can be translated into tangible, life-saving work on the ground.