Investing in women’s health isn’t just the right thing to do, it contributes to economic growth and builds secure nations.
It’s a message we heard at the Bank last week during a moving panel discussion on reducing maternal mortality, and it’s a message the U.N. Secretary General and heads of state made loud and clear yesterday, with the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health .
A diverse group of stakeholders, including the World Bank, pledged more than $40 billion toward the plan, which aims to prevent the deaths of more than 15 million children under five; 33 million unwanted pregnancies; and 740,000 women from dying from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth, before 2015.
Cristian Baeza, the Bank’s Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, blogged  here about the importance of showing results in maternal and child health. The Bank just announced an additional $600 million in results-based financing to help 35 countries achieve the health MDGs.
“One of the most effective things is making payments to health providers or patients conditional on measurable actions, such as delivering babies in health facilities, providing micronutrients, family planning services and others,” he wrote.
Bed Nets for All
The health MDGs got another boost yesterday as Members of the Africa Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA)--a coalition of 35 heads of state-- held a session on “Bridging the Malaria Gap.”  In Africa, 700 million are at risk for malaria, and 850,000 die of the disease each year. The U.N. Secretary General has set a goal of providing bed nets to everyone living in malaria-endemic countries by the end of this year.
At the event, ALMA members announced several policy commitments to end malaria including eliminating taxes and tariffs on bed nets and medicines; banning drug therapies that increase disease resistance; and enhancing Africa’s capacity to produce safe and effective anti-malaria products.
"Malaria costs Africa and its people about $12 billion annually in lost GDP, and it slows down GDP growth by as much as 1.3 percent a year,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said at the event. “While the international community is heeding the call to fund and produce bed nets and drug treatments, we also have to deliver these bednets where they ‘re most needed.”
Private Sector Partnerships
Private sector representatives have been heavily engaged in the Summit, lending their support to high-profile initiatives including the 1,000 days campaign to reduce child undernutriton and the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
Yesterday, they turned out in force for the U.N. Private Sector Forum on the MDGs , where Zoellick discussed the Bank’s successes in working with private sector partners, particularly in fighting food insecurity and delivering health services in Africa.
“One of the things … that I think there’s great potential in is the development of private sector services that can often be connected to public sector purposes --the education area, the health area, low-carbon growth,” he told the group. “This is where we need to connect some of the aid perspective that traditionally is seen only in public sector functions.”
Bank delegates participating in the Summit must recharge in two weeks’ time for the 2010 IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings and-- a first for the Bank--the online Open Forum . Commitments made in New York will no doubt wend their way into the discussion as Ministers of Finance and Development convene on H Street to talk economic outlook, aid effectiveness and next steps for poverty reduction.