The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has announced a $40-billion drive to improve the health of women and children, which he said would save millions of lives around the world. Governments, philanthropists and private groups pledged the cash, giving a spectacular end to the UN summit on eliminating poverty, a campaign that has been badly battered by the international financial crisis. "We know what works to save women's and children's lives, and we know that women and children are critical to all of the Millennium Development Goals," said the UN chief in a statement. "Today we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed."
He estimated that his Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health could save 16 million lives by 2015. Cutting the unnecessary deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth and stopping the premature deaths of children under five are the two most slowest moving goals of the eight key development targets set at a summit in 2000. The UN said that spending on women and children reduces poverty, stimulates economic growth and is a fundamental human right.
Countries from Afghanistan to Zambia - but also including Australia, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and the United States - have contributed to the drive. The foundations of the world's richest men, the Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim and the Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates were among the contributors. They joined rights groups such as Amnesty International and multinationals such as The Body Shop, LG Electronics and Pfizer.