An event co-hosted by PATH at the 66th World Health Assembly (WHA) drew an overflow crowd to talk about increasing access to essential medicines and supplies for improving the health of women and children. Some of the world’s leading experts on maternal, newborn, and child health gathered to voice their support for the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children and to underscore the importance of expanding poor countries’ access to low-cost, effective products to avoid preventable deaths.
The panel event, held May 22 in Geneva, was hosted by the United States, Norway, Nigeria, PATH, and World Vision to emphasize how innovation can overcome barriers that families and communities face in accessing lifesaving commodities. A day after the event, WHA delegates passed a resolution to implement the UN Commission’s recommendations to improve access to 13 underused commodities, streamline the process for their approved use, and develop plans to increase demand and facilitate universal access that could save 6 million lives over the next five years.
Panelists at the event included the Honourable Minister of State for Health in Nigeria, Dr. Muhammed Ali Pate; Dr. Flavia Bustreo, World Health Organization assistant director-general of family, women’s and children’s health; Dr. Mesfin Teklu, World Vision’s director of maternal and child health, HIV and infectious diseases, GBCHealth Managing Director Michael Schreiber, and the World Bank’s Director for Health, Nutrition and Population Dr. Timothy Evans. Dr. Ariel Pablo-Méndez, assistant administrator for global health at the US Agency for International Development, moderated the event.
Minister Pate highlighted the efforts that are currently underway in Nigeria to address maternal and child health, which align with the recommendations of the UN Commission. He stressed the importance of adapting the recommendations to local contexts to ensure country-relevant solutions.
Other panelists discussed ongoing work by a range of stakeholders to improve the delivery of 13 overlooked commodities, such as oral rehydration solution and zinc to treat diarrheal disease and the drugs oxytocin and misoprostol to prevent severe bleeding after childbirth, the leading cause of maternal mortality. The commission’s recommendations emphasize partnerships and innovative solutions, such as the increased use of mobile phone technologies, to transform the supply, demand, and use of high-quality medicines and supplies for women and children.
Key guests in the audience included Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, who was hosted by PATH to attend the WHA. Princess Zeid spoke of complications she experienced during childbirth and her commitment to ensuring women everywhere can have the same quality of care that saved her life.
“With leadership, we can fundamentally change the landscape for women and children,” she said.
Rachel Wilson, PATH’s senior director of policy and advocacy, reminded the audience that the WHA resolution would be an important but initial step.
“After passing the resolution, we need to translate that change on the ground,” she said. “We’re going to need your leadership when you’re back to your countries. Civil society, providers, and the media—it’s really going to take all of us.”
PATH is committed to working toward implementing the UN Commission’s recommendations through our leadership in technical working groups and as the convener of the commission’s advocacy working group. We will continue to be engaged to ensure that this global commitment is translated into action at a country level