MDG Goals 4 and 5 are critical for India
As world leaders gather this week and next at the United Nations for the General Assembly, the focus will be on an ambitious post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The UN will continue to work with governments, civil society, and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the millennium development goals (MDGs).
It is heartening that India has made some progress in reaching its MDGs, despite the global economic slowdown that hindered all countries' efforts to close the gaps between those with access to health, education, and economic opportunity and those for whom these basic services are out of reach. While achieving all the MDGs is vital, it might be said that Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health) are fundamental to progress across the board.
Given India's great geographical breath and width, and its diverse population, its challenges in reaching the MDGs have dwarfed what other countries face. At the same time, India has many of the ingredients for success - as its groundbreaking work to eliminate polio demonstrated.
While we in India have made strides in reducing child mortality, maternal mortality still remains a challenge. And yet we know that maternal health is critical for the health and wellbeing of the whole family. Helping mothers with all their health needs-reproductive services, prenatal care, and safe births-pays dividends for their children. Similarly, keeping young children healthy through immunization and other basic care relieves mothers of long journeys to remote health facilities, as well as the burden of caring for malnourished and sick children, and the high cost of treatments that often are ineffective.
We need to do a great deal more in this area: increasing our investment, improving access to skilled delivery services, and educating families about care-seeking behavior while making it easier for them to reach trained health providers.
With a focus on improving the health of mothers and children, we can create a virtuous cycle. Healthier children and families are better able to pursue education, improve hygiene and sanitary practices, and generally improve their economic circumstances. Importantly, progress on the other MDGs-water and sanitation, gender, education—in turn will contribute to further reducing infant and maternal mortality.
With the slew of announcements since the new Indian government came into power, it has already shown its commitment to child health. This focused initiative can have a big impact even as nations prepare to enter the post 2015 phase. To accelerate and sustain progress, we will need dedicated resources and savvy strategies. These are the ingredients India used in making great strides in immunization. With its efforts on Japanese Encephalitis, India has shown resolve to reach for that last mile to that last child. We can build upon our success in eliminating polio and progress on so many health fronts to keep up the push to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals.
Photo credit: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.