Why Poverty? In a world in constant development, why does poverty still persist?
Important questions. Fundamental questions to creating the ‘Future We Want’ and ensuring present and future generations enjoy a better quality of life.
I was excited when I first heard about this innovative, thought-provoking and debate-creating initiative and I have been looking so much forward to the launch of ‘Why Poverty’.
I am so pleased to see, on this important occasion, so many representatives from governments, the United Nations and other international institutions, civil society organisations and groups and naturally, the media.
And I am grateful that the two partners of the ‘Why Poverty’ project – the Danish Broadcasting Cooperation and the British Broadcasting Cooperation – along with the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations have brought us all together here tonight.
Tonight we can start a global conversation that will grow in scope and reach in the coming months by asking the question – Why Poverty?
Sadly, the question: “Why poverty?” is still highly relevant. Only by asking and engaging can we raise awareness and hopefully, people from all over the world will contribute in their own way, to creating the future we want – a world free from poverty.
I believe that international engagement in development issues is based upon public understanding and increased knowledge. During tonight’s debate we will see trailers and clips from the ‘Why Poverty?’ documentaries to be broadcast later this year. As mentioned by previous speakers this means taking advantage of the media’s unique ability to focus on and highlight important issues. Here the question can be posed in a narrative and personal way, enabling the viewer to better understand and identify with the issue at hand.
I am sure this will remind us – and the more than 500 million people worldwide who will watch the documentaries in their full length at home – that development issues are not a matter of dry and dull statistics on a piece of paper. No, it is the harsh reality for millions of our fellow human beings; women, men, girls and boys.
Every one of the eight powerful documentaries will affect you, some perhaps more than others. For me, the trailer from the documentary ‘Welcome to the World’ on maternal mortality and safe motherhood, which we are about to see in a few minutes, really had an impact.
The issue of preventing maternal deaths in childbirth and promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women is a subject that is close to my heart.
I am a proud patron of Maternity Worldwide, an organisation that works to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries; the United Nations Population Fund; and the World Health Organisation, Regional Office for Europe. I am also truly honoured to have been invited to become a member of the High Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development. The Task Force will be officially launched this coming Monday, here in New York. I am looking very much forward to working as part of the Task Force to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights are a reality for all – no matter who you are and where you live.
Every single day, 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes – that is 287,000 mothers dying each year and 99 percent of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world – a staggering, one out of eight women die during pregnancy or in childbirth in this country.
The numbers are shocking, especially when you consider that most maternal deaths can be avoided. Deaths related to childbirth can be prevented relatively easily and at a relatively low cost with simple and effective interventions. It has been calculated that for just 25 dollars a mother can have a safe birth.
Every maternal death is a tragedy. For every woman who dies in childbirth there is a child without a mother. A child that is likely to start life as an orphan, a child who has a higher risk of becoming undernourished, suffering from childhood diseases and neglect. A child whose dream of going to school remains just that, a dream. The negative consequences for the child, the family, and the society as a whole are tremendous.
It is obvious that there is a clear link between; development, poverty, gender equality and maternal health. Reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent in the period from 1990-2015 is part of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals for the elimination of poverty. We have seen some notable progress since 1990 – including a 47 percent fall in maternal deaths. But as we approach the 2015 deadline, there is still a long way to go.
In order to reach this goal we need to ensure that each and every woman has access to well performing health systems and good reproductive health services.
Part of a well performing health system is the provision of skilled birth attendance. Almost all births in developed countries are assisted by skilled birth attendants. In developing countries, the figure is 65 per cent.
In some of the least developed countries, it falls to less than 20 per cent and in many rural areas less than 10 per cent of all births are attended by skilled health personnel.
Furthermore, there is an urgency to meet the needs of an estimated 222 million women who want to prevent or delay pregnancy, but have no access to effective contraception. Ensuring this right to choose is urgent. By meeting the unmet needs for modern family planning and maternal and newborn health care, maternal deaths can be reduced by approximately two-thirds—from the current 287,000 to 105,000.
I am the mother of four beautiful and healthy children. I know that I was fortunate to give birth in a developed country with good maternal care. I hope for a day where maternal health is equally distributed and women no longer risk life, to give life.
A day where every pregnancy is wished for and every birth is safe – no matter who you are and where you live. It is my great wish that we can all work together to achieve the ‘future we want’.