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Patricia Van Arnum was executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
A new UN organization focuses on improving the delivery of essential health supplies, promoting new technologies and products, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and enhancing financing mechanisms.
UNICEF and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, launched a high-level commission late last month to improve access to essential health supplies for women and children in the developing world. The Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children is seen as important tool in realizing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of antipoverty, which include reduction of maternal and children mortality.
“Making sure that women and children have the medicines and other supplies they need is critical for our push to achieve the MDGs,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a Mar. 23, 2012, World Health Organization press release. “The Commission will tackle an overlooked but vital aspect of health systems and ensure that women and children are protected from preventable causes of death and disease.”
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway will serve as founding cochairs of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, which will also include global stakeholders from the public, private, and civil-society sectors. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin are vice-chairs of the Commission, which is part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement to support achievement of the health-related MDGs. The Every Woman Every Child Initiative was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010.
“There is no doubt that lives can be saved by increasing access to affordable and effective medicines and health supplies. We must all make a difference and the time is now,” said President Jonathan of Nigeria in the release.
“The day of birth is the most dangerous day in the life of a woman and her child,” said Prime Minister Stoltenberg. “The fact that women do not get the care they need during childbirth is the most brutal expression of discrimination against women. To prevent these tragic and unnecessary deaths is not only a humanitarian urgency of highest priority, but a key investment for social and economic development.”
The Commission will identify strategies for improving the delivery of essential health supplies, including strengthening local production capacities, promoting new technologies and products, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and enhancing innovative financing mechanisms at both the global and local levels.
The Commission will focus on high-impact health supplies that can reduce the main causes of child and maternal deaths, as well as innovations that can be scaled up, including mechanisms for price reduction and supplies stability. Key efforts include: reducing financial barriers to access through social-protection mechanisms, such as fee waivers, vouchers, and social insurance, and global financial mechanisms, such as pooled procurement; creating incentives for international and local manufacturers to produce and innovatively package overlooked supplies; identifying fast-track regulatory activities to accelerate registration and reduce registration fees for a special list of products to encourage a focus on quality medicines. The Commission also will advocate to build consensus around priority actions for increasing the availability, affordability, access, and rational use of overlooked health supplies that will prevent premature death and disease among children under five years old and women of childbearing age.