Photo: Johnson & Johnson

Keeping Our Promise to Every Woman, Every Child

By Sharon K. D’Agostino, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, Johnson & Johnson

Keeping Our Promise to Every Woman, Every Child

Each of us has felt the sting of a broken promise, most likely in our early childhood. The lesson leaves a lasting impression, teaching us that when we make a promise, we must honor it.

The launch of Every Woman, Every Child by the United Nations three years ago sparked a series of promises to accelerate progress against Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4, 5 and 6, promises to help save the lives of 16 million women and children by the end of 2015. Over 250 entities – governments, United Nations Agencies, NGOs, foundations, academic institutions, health care associations and private sector companies – have come together to address the most pressing causes of maternal and child mortality.

Progress is being made, but not fast enough. The world is beginning to recognize that if we do not redouble our efforts now, we will fail to honor our collective promise to the 16 million women and children who are counting on us. A UNICEF report issued just last week confirms that at the current rate of progress, MDG 4 of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate in children would not be achieved until 2028.

Building on a long history of work in maternal and child health, Johnson & Johnson was one of the first companies to announce a five-year commitment to Every Woman Every Child in September, 2010. We set a goal of reaching 120 million women and children by 2015, focusing our efforts in four areas: making childbirth safer for mothers and babies; treating and preventing intestinal worms in children; using mobile phones to share critical health information; and devoting research and development to develop medicines to treat HIV, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

The enthusiasm with which our senior leaders and all our colleagues have rallied to honor this commitment is inspiring. We have expanded existing partnerships and established new ones, mobilized resources, and developed better systems for tracking and evaluating results. At the midpoint of our MDG commitment, we can report significant progress in each of the four commitment areas. Through hundreds of partnerships around the world, we have reached an estimated 61 million women and children since 2010, working in fifty-four of the seventy-five MDG priority countries. This progress is a testament to the tireless effort, collaboration and unmatched expertise of the many partners with whom we are working to achieve these results. Our partners succeed because of their strong community ties, ensuring that programs have the intended outcomes because they are tailored to address local needs, challenges and customs.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that every time a girl or woman dies in childbirth or a newborn is unable to take his first breath of life, family members experience an unfathomable loss that impacts the rest of their lives. And for each mother who survives childbirth and delivers a healthy newborn, a family rejoices and is much more likely to thrive. The MDGs are the world’s promises to individuals, to families, and to communities in resource-constrained settings that need our collective support. In the end, these promises are kept one person at a time.

With fewer than 850 days left until the MDG target date, every day counts for the millions of women and children who are relying on us to keep our promise to them. We cannot let them down.

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