Global Health at the UN General Assembly
In a time of political, social, and economic turmoil, the focus on global health has blurred slightly. We’ve made great gains against polio, malaria, HIV, and a number of other diseases in the past decade, but there is, as always, much to be done. With tensions high across the Middle East and Europe, an election in the U.S., a persistent economic downturn, and the dramatic visuals that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed this week, talking about foreign aid and development has become a third rail of sorts. Given the role of the UN, however, and the uncertainty that we’ll get anywhere close to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, global health issues had to take a spot on the agenda of the 67th General Assembly, which opened on September 18.
Here’s a rundown of some of the conversations:
- The UN discussed maternal and child nutrition, acknowledging progress in efforts to curb malnutrition globally.
- Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for new partnerships to tackle the MDGs, which will be difficult without more funding (which declined in 2011) as he launched a report by the MDG Global Task Force, which, Ban wrote, “contains a sobering warning.”
- World Bank President Jim Yong Kim addressed the General Assembly at the beginning of the week at an event for the “Every Woman, Every Child” initiative. Kim announced a new funding mechanism to support MDGs 4 and 5 and improve reproductive health, and build up health systems.
- Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave speeches at the Clinton Global Initiative. Although both were obviously campaign whistle stops, the New York Times’ Nick Kristof had a strong perspective on Obama’s stance on human trafficking.
- Ban also put the spotlight back on polio, stressing that although the world has seen the lowest number of annual cases ever this year, it’s a slippery slope.
- The UN announced a plan to combat maternal and child mortality by increasing the use of and access to medicines, supplies, and medical devices, including contraception. I’d guess that Melinda Gates’ push this year for access to family planning and contraception helped (and check out Gate’s blog on World Contraception Day, September 26).
Header photo, a vintage postcard of the UN headquarters in New York, from the Boston Public Library, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.