Statement by GAVI Executive Secretary on UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2009

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Building strong health systems is critical to ensuring improved health for the world's most vulnerable -- poor mothers and their children

Geneva, 15 January 2009 - UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2009, published today, provides strong evidence of the progress being made in improving child health in poor countries but their mothers remain at high risk of disease and death.

GAVI welcomes the report's recommendation that the development community continues to increase its focus on building and ensuring integrated health care on all levels, whether it be in the home, community or in national health systems.

In December 2005, the Alliance introduced new support for health systems strengthening (HSS) in order to improve basic health service delivery so that more families have the promise of a healthy life. To date, GAVI has committed US$ 800 million in HSS funds to GAVI eligible countries.

Still, more must be done. A pregnant mother is 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than her counterpart in the developed world and a child born in a developing country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first month of life.

As GAVI and other key health partners, including UNICEF, continue to further scale up vaccine coverage and improve health services, the importance of donor commitment, despite the economic turmoil, remains critical if further progress towards the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved.

The UNICEF report stresses some of the challenges that lie ahead. We are facing increased country demand for introducing new life-saving vaccines that will make a difference to child mortality rates. Now is the time to build on the extraordinary accomplishments that have been made in just under a decade.

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