World leaders can boost healthcare at UN

Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote this open letter to the UN General Assembly, ahead of their meeting this week. It was published today in The Guardian.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

 Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamToday, a unique opportunity will present itself to world leaders, which has the potential to change the face of healthcare for millions of mothers and children in poor countries across the world.

The opportunity is to extend free health care to women and children in at least seven developing countries: Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal and Sierra Leone.

In many poor countries families cannot afford even the simplest medical treatments, leaving mothers to choose which of their children will get medicine, and causing thousands of needless deaths. User fees are one of the main barriers to healthcare for women and children and it is imperative that we fight for their removal.

Where countries have removed fees, for example in Uganda, lives have been saved. The number of patients accessing healthcare have more than doubled in some clinics, with an 84% increase in attendance countrywide.  But most importantly, the numbers of mothers dying in childbirth have finally started to fall.

Having already seen such remarkable improvements, I strongly urge leaders in developing countries to apply these lessons and make free health care for women and children a reality. I also urge rich country donors including the UK to announce today their support at the United Nations General Assembly Health event.

Now is the time to act to make a real difference and save lives. I firmly believe this is a critical turning point in the fight to achieve free healthcare for all, and call on leaders to seize this opportunity with both hands.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Oxfam Global Ambassador

What you can do now

Take action: Join The Big Promise -- show world leaders how to keep their promises on health & education for all.

Aid in Action story: Ghana: financing free primary education for all

Watch the video: The reality of healthcare in developing countries

Photo gallery: Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone

Read the report: Your Money or Your Life: Will leaders act now to save lives and make health care free in poor countries?