Content: John Butler, Save the Children International
At the United Nations General Assembly, Government leaders, the private sector and civil society united to make commitments on health workers to ensure that mothers and children live through child birth.
Challenges like this are not won in New York though and we know that to ensure success, concerted high level advocacy must be conducted continually at the international, regional, national and local level. It is important that at every possible juncture, the health workers count ensures that for the health Millennium Development Goals to be met; health workers are the critical component.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting offered a different opportunity to the UNGA. While political commitments are rare, there is greater space and capacity for organised coalitions to leave their footprint. Working in coalition with groups like the End Polio Coalition and the Commonwealth Youth Forum ensured our access to key meetings with leaders where we discussed the role of health workers and the need to ensure that the 3.5 million gap in health workers is closed. Polio eradication was discussed in great length and the health workers count ensured that leaders understood the link between eradicating polio and the need to have skilled health workers to administer immunisations.
We came into CHOGM with an inspirational health worker from Nigeria, a country which has 816,000 child deaths a year. Catherine Ojo (pictured below), is Save the Children’s Midwife of the Year and one of the strongest advocates I’ve ever met. Whether she was speaking to the CHOGM host Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, her own President, Goodluck Jonathon, or as warm up to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd at a festival of 5,000 people; Catherine personifies the power of skilled health workers to save lives. She’s seen the devastation of a baby or their mum dying in child birth and she’s also saved children and mothers from certain death against the odds. The calm determination she possesses to save children in Zaria, northern Nigeria, is matched by her ability to speak to leaders about the need for them to increase the number and improve the quality of health workers across the world.
Catherine’s conversations with the leaders from across the Commonwealth underlines the importance that world leaders are giving to the health worker issue and with the messages and quotes below, we have the building blocks to ensure that these leaders are champions for health workers to ensure the 3.5 million health gap is closed and child and maternal mortality is consigned to the history books.
Director General of AusAID, Peter Baxter
“Training health workers is one of the best things we do”
President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina
“We need proper training for midwives”.
Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang
“Cameroon has made a significant investment in health workers including the training of 350 doctors, 300 nurses and new health centres.”
Foreign Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd
“We will continue the work” to improve the health of women and children around the world”.
President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan
“Commended Catherine for the work she is doing in Nigeria to save women
and children’s lives”
Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard
“Really appreciate the work of health workers like Catherine”, which is why the Australian Government have continued to prioritise health workers.
Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper
“When doing good is that easy and that inexpensive, doing nothing is inexcusable”
Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron
“Congratulations for the excellent work on the ground you have done to save women’s and children’s lives.”