(Dhaka) – An intimate dinner was convened for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with 70 leaders from the private sector, civil society and Government focused on “Women’s and children’s health in Bangladesh: challenges, solutions and innovations”. Co-hosted by the Global Compact Local Network Bangladesh, Brac, ICDDR,B and the UN Foundation, the event provided the Secretary-General with the opportunity to introduce the “Every Woman Every Child” initiative to the local private sector and to galvanize support and action.
“Every Woman Every Child” was launched by the Secretary-General in 2010 to mobilize and intensify international and national action by Governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria and businessman Ray Chambers also attended the event and encouraged the private sector to take greater action to advance women’s and children’s health issues.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the private sector is already playing an important role but stressed that more needs to be done. “Bangladeshi private resources, expertise and networks are making a difference. You are reducing the cost of medicines and vaccines. You are making sure that health care reaches more people in poor communities,” he said. “And your innovations are now spreading around the world. Simple solutions that save lives.”
In her remarks, Shahamin Zaman, Representative of the Global Compact Local Network Bangladesh said, “The private sector can, through integrated CSR approaches on such issues of environment, human rights, enhancing good governance structures and promoting the fight against corruption – which are the basic principles of the UNGC – act as a catalyst for development.”
Roundtable discussions were organized during the event in order to examine challenges, solutions and innovations in the following areas: Food Security and Nutrition; Maternal and Children’s Health; Health Products and Facilities; Water, Sanitation and Environment; Health Workforce; and Building Global Momentum.
All private sector commitments to action in support of the “Every Woman Every Child” initiative were made by Global Compact participants:
Abdul Monem Limited (AML) committed to raise awareness of malnutrition and will provide free vitamins. Partnering with the Nutrition Department of Dhaka University, AML plans to reach 50,000 poor and needy mothers (both pregnant and lactating) in the next five years through its nutrition awareness programs. The company also pledged to provide eight types of vitamins free of cost to 50,000 pregnant mothers in the next five years.
TeleConsult Group committed to improve women’s and children’s health through information technology. The company will establish a 24/7 contact center with a trained team from its m-health project to connect mothers, children and nurses in rural areas with urban-based doctors and to keep real-time digital medical records. An estimated one million mothers and children will benefit from the program next year and 10 million are expected to benefit over the next five years.
The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce committed to raise awareness of cervical cancer by disseminating information about prevention to 30,000 Bangladeshi women through leaflets, letters, counseling, training programs, meetings and roundtables by 2016. The BWCCI will also take initiatives to motivate 20,000 young mothers to be inoculated to prevent cervical cancer and 30,000 women to do pap smear tests annually.
Viyellatex Group committed to provide free medical services, including eye care, immunization, and clinical services to 3,500 mothers and 1,500 children in Bangladesh by 2015. The company also committed to provide free sonograms and medicines to 3,500 pregnant women and to start a school for physically-challenged and underprivileged children by July 2012.
The commitments made to date represent a fraction of the potential of a deeply and diversely-engaged private sector. The Global Compact Local Network Bangladesh representing 41 participants will work closely with the UN Foundation to follow up on the commitments made, and to catalyze new initiatives and partnerships that will advance women’s and children’s health in Bangladesh.