I’ve just returned from an inspiring and thought-provoking week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where leaders and advocates from 149 countries gathered for the Women Deliver 2013 conference. My USAID colleagues and I were proud to participate in one of the decade’s largest conferences on the health and rights of girls and women.
One of the most memorable parts of the week for me was speaking on a panel at the Ministerial Forum with Yemurai Nyoni, a youth representative from Zimbabwe. He was a strong and articulate voice for youth and urged that young people be included in program design and implementation of youth-focused programs. It’s people like Yemurai that give us hope for the future. And with 1.8 billion youth in the world today, it is vital that we listen and include them in our development work.
Women Deliver served as a pivotal opportunity to renew commitment to meeting the needs of girls and women across the globe. USAID places women and girls at the center of our global health programs because we know improving women’s and girl’s health is critically important to almost every area of human development and progress. We’re helping countries acquire the resources they need to improve health outcomes through strengthened health systems and integrated services. This week in Kuala Lumpur I discussed the bold visions we have for our future to end preventable child and maternal deaths and create an AIDS Free Generation. Bold visions inspire action, and action paves the way for progress.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen wonderful success in reductions of maternal and child deaths and improved access to family planning. But despite all the good we have done, millions around the globe still do not receive the reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services they need. Every year 6.9 million children die of preventable causes and 287,000 women lose their life in pregnancy or childbirth. Some 222 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern method of family planning. Closing this access gap to family planning information and services would reduce maternal deaths by 30 percent and could save the lives of 1.6 million children annually (PDF).
After a week of renewed commitments, sharing lessons learned, and listening to those pioneering the way forward on women’s health and rights, I feel inspired to do my part in leading USAID to achieve our global health goals and improve women’s and girl’s health and rights across the globe.
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