The World Health Organization launched the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in New York on Monday. The initiative is in response to growing concern that a United Nations goal to greatly reduce maternal and child mortality by 2015 is falling short.

The collaboration among countries and organizations active in maternal, newborn and child health will work with national leaders to deliver a “continuum of care” approach that meets women’s health needs at the same time as their children’s.

“This partnership has the potential to transform millions of lives and make critical progress,” said Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, director general of the WHO.

The U.N. goal for reducing maternal and child mortality was set in 2000 as one of the so-called millennium development goals. These goals are designed to decrease poverty and improve standards of living worldwide by the year 2015. Targets include reducing the rate of maternal mortality worldwide by 75 percent and the mortality rate for children under five by two-thirds. The goals also call for universal primary education, environmental sustainability, gender equality and the reversal of the spread of AIDS.

Other News to Cheer This Week:

  • A federal judge struck down Michigan’s Legal Birth Definition Act on Monday that reproductive rights advocates said was equivalent to a ban on abortion. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood found that the act “creates a ban on actions at the heart of abortion procedures from the earliest stages of pregnancy, whether used to perform induced abortions or to treat pregnancy loss,” according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
  • In Massachusetts, the state legislature voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to allow trained pharmacists in that state to dispense the emergency contraception Plan B pill without a doctor’s prescription. The law also requires that hospitals offer the pill to rape victims. To enact the law, the legislature overrode a veto of the measure by Governor Mitch Romney.
  • Pennsylvania added a third woman to its recently elected state and federal officials in a special election on Tuesday, according to a press release issued from EMILY’s List, the Washington political action committee that seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women. Cherelle Parker won the 20th district state assembly seat vacated by LeAnna Washington, who moved over to the state senate and also won Tuesday. In turn, Washington replaced former state senator Allyson Schwartz who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Pennsylvania ranks 46th out of the 50 U.S. states in female representation, with 13 percent of its state legislative seats held by women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
  • Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Sept. 11 a plan to forbid all religious arbitration in that province, various Canadian news organizations reported. The decision followed a controversial debate over allowing the strict Islamic legal code of Sharia to settle some family disputes such as divorce and child custody in Canadian courts. The decision reverses an existing law that allowed family disputes to be settled within ethnic or religious communities.
  • In Afghanistan, calendars featuring photographs of 12 inspirational and professional female role models are being distributed in schools throughout that nation to encourage girls to explore career opportunities. The calendar was produced by the non-profit Academy for Educational Development, based in Washington, D.C.
  • Throughout September and October, the Digital Futures for Palestine Consortium will implement an educational and career development program called Sisters in 1,500 schools in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a press release from Kidz Online. The curriculum, available on CD-ROM and on the Internet, encourages higher education levels for the region’s young women. Palestinian female students are currently one and a half times more likely to drop out of school after the 10th grade than males.


(WASHINGTON)–The Bush administration’s decided to block U.S. funding for the world’s most impoverished women for the fourth straight year. Although Congress appropriated $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund, the State Department sent a letter late Thursday night to Congress stating that the bulk of the money earmarked for UNFPA would be transferred to the “Child Survival and Health Fund Programs.”

Also, during the United Nations World Summit last week, the United States continued to refuse to endorse the Beijing Platform for Action (of which it was a leading architect) that addressed many issues important to women and was approved by 189 countries in 1995.

Other News to Jeer This Week:

  • A few hours after the Food and Drug Administration posted on its Web site an announcement naming Dr. Norris E. Alderson, an expert in animal science, acting director of the Office of Women’s Health, the posting was replaced with an announcement naming Theresa A. Toigo to the post. The new new director is a career employee with a strong backgound in cancer and HIV/AIDS.

  • A coalition of environmental groups released findings from a 22-state testing project on Thursday that confirmed that samples of swordfish and tuna (all from popular U.S. supermarket chains) when averaged together, contained levels of mercury that may be hazardous to human health. In 2004, the government advised pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid fish with high mercury levels. Mercury is particularly harmful to the developing nervous systems of unborn and young children.

Karen James is a Women’s eNews intern and a master’s candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.