Hon’ble President of India Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil inaugurates Global Partners’ Forum at Vigyan Bhawan

Some 1000 participants from about 50 countries filled the Vigyan Bhawan in downtown New Delhi as the President of India – Her Excellency Pratibha Devisingh Patil –inaugurated “From Pledges to Action – A Partners’ Forum on Women’s and Children’s Health“. Welcomed by the host government’s Minister and Secretary of Health and Family Welfare, and with messages from high-level guests including Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General and Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, the exuberant members of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health listened to accolades for a job well done–and support for the challenges ahead.

“It is my great pleasure to inaugurate and welcome all delegates to this international Conclave on 2010 Partners’ Forum,” declared Her Excellency Pratibha Devisingh Patil. This year, the world pledged more than $40 billion in support of the goals set out by the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched by the UNSG in September. However, as many speakers pointed out—the pledges will demand renewed vigor from partners who gather in Delhi to develop concrete plans and strategies to advance those commitments, and to advocate for more. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India today played host to The Partners’ Forum on Women’s and Children’s Health, convened by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. The high-level political event is being held between 12–14 November at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. Hon’ble President of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil inaugurated this global Forum on 13 November 2010.

Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil said “We recognize that India’s burden of maternal, newborn and child mortality is one of the highest in the world and we are conscious of this onerous challenge, as well as the enormous responsibility. Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, has highlighted India’s efforts at improving maternal, newborn and child health under the National Rural Health Mission to provide healthcare in the rural areas which is accessible, affordable, accountable, effective and reliable. This Mission is fully focused on improving our standing on maternal and child health indicators. India’s medium-term aim is to transform the health systems of India, in order to ensure that each citizen has access to good quality services, according to needs and preferences, regardless of income level, social status, or residency. The curative aspect of healthcare is very important, but along with it, a broad approach that looks at the entire range of healthcare from preventive to rehabilitation should be adopted, which can result in a higher dividend in terms of healthy individuals. However, provision of healthcare alone does not translate into healthy citizens or mothers or children.

Perhaps, the most important determinant of good health of women and children is education, especially of girls. Education is a powerful driver of health. The dynamic relationship between poverty, lack of education and limited access to health services, is well recognised. India has recently enacted a Right to Education Act under which all Indian children in the age group of 6 to 14 years will receive free education. When fully realised this will have a profound impact on health indicators as well. To ensure that children remain in school and that this also benefits them nutritionally, we also run the largest school-lunch programme in the world. This is being supplemented by Saakshar Bharat a special programme focused on female literacy launched in 2009.

The Partners’ Forum in New Delhi will also recap commitments pledged throughout 2010 and provide a platform for developing strategies and networks that promote accountability for those pledges.