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2020 Progress Report on the EWEC Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health

25.09.2020

Dear friends, 

It’s 10th anniversary of Every Woman Every Child, a global health movement driving ambitious action for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being. It has been a tremendous decade. Thank you for everybody who has contributed to this noble goal of ours.

And indeed, there’s much to celebrate. We have witnessed significant declines in child and maternal mortality - over 25 million child marriages have been prevented, and more girls are going to school and staying in school than ever before.

These and other important advances would not have been as successful – or perhaps would not have been attained at all – without Every Woman Every Child’s dedicated and focused efforts to  implement its landmark Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

However, this progress has not reached every woman, nor every child. Many deep-rooted inequities continue to deprive women, children and adolescents of their rights. To give you just a few examples. 

Conflict - in country or in the home, climate, and contagion are enormous threats to the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents around the globe.

Humanitarian crises are a major source of injustice. Maternal and child mortality rates are substantially higher in countries chronically affected by conflict, and 40% of under-5 deaths globally occur in fragile contexts.

Discrimination, abuse and violence against women, children and adolescents—which are among the most widespread of human rights violations—continue to erode physical and mental health.

The unrelenting and dire threats to their safety and security are illustrated to shocking effect in statistics that reveal persistently high rates of intimate partner violence and the disproportionate impact of HIV on adolescent girls in some of the countries hardest hit by AIDS.

The climate crisis, now an existential threat, continues to have a disproportionate impact on women and children.

The evidence is clear: Exposure to polluted air prenatally and during the newborn period is associated with many negative consequences, including increased risk of acute respiratory diseases in childhood, considerable morbidity and mortality, reduced lung function, slowing brain maturation, and impaired growth in cognitive function in schoolchildren.

Disease has long been a barrier to progress—and the world is now confronting its newest contagion in the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the lack of fairness in societies around the globe. It is an unprecedented threat that has already disrupted routine childhood vaccinations, kept children out of school, reduced access to sexual and reproductive services, increased rates of gender-based violence, and more.

The current situation may be challenging, but it is time to go from crisis to comeback. Protecting the progress requires putting women and children front and centre of all responses to the pandemic. However, this should only be the first step. Vulnerabilities, challenges and needs should also guide a wide range of health, social and economic policies and decisions that can advance overall well-being.

We need national policies and budgets to target inequality and protect human rights, including protecting national budgets and services for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. We need global solidarity and cooperation. We need multilateralism and multi-stakeholder partnerships that Every Woman Every Child supports, and that have been so vital over the past decade and are now needed on an unprecedented scale. Because doing things on our own simply doesn’t pay off.

We should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic that showed to all of us – from Europe to Africa to small island states – the importance of technologies. I firmly believe that digital is an equaliser. And we should also use digital means to bolster the EWEC movement and its aims. By using new technologies we can not only reach out to a wider audience of supporters but also raise awareness and really help those in need. Digital means can really complement our goals and efforts.

As we head to the second decade with an even stronger mandate to achieve EWEC’s goal of a world in which every woman, child and adolescent not only survives, but thrives and transforms. That can only be achieved when everyone, in every setting, realizes their rights to physical and mental health and well-being, has social and economic opportunities, and is able to participate fully in shaping sustainable and prosperous societies.

The urgent need to overcome obstacles to this vision is as critical today as it was at the movement’s launch in 2010.

2020 can still go down in history as the year that the world and its leaders came together to halt and reverse a potential long-lasting decline and catastrophe. It is up to us, all of us—world leaders, and world citizens—to ensure this is the crisis when we finally got it right. In doing so we need to stick together, have a strategic view, focused plan and use every means to deliver our message, get new supporters and advocates and help the most vulnerable among us.

Thank you!