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G20 Nations Urged to Bolster Well-being of Women, Children, and Adolescents

In the midst of ongoing health challenges faced by vulnerable populations, a clarion call has been directed at G20 countries to enhance the health outcomes for women, children, and adolescents across the globe.

Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Board Chairman of the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), a subsidiary of WHO, along with Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, have jointly emphasized the pivotal need for this transformation.

Highlighting that G20 countries house a substantial two-thirds of the world’s population, they underscored that collective health endeavors within this group wield an enormous global influence. Therefore, they asserted that investing in the health of women, children, and adolescents is not only crucial but also forms the bedrock for sustainable global economic vitality.

The statistics tell a somber tale. Each year, nearly two million avoidable deaths afflict mothers, newborns, children, and adolescents within the G20 nations, an alarming reality that remains a pressing challenge. The emergence of the “four Cs” – covid-19, conflict, climate change, and the cost of living crisis – has driven these tragic outcomes in recent times.

Helen Clark and Amitabh Kant articulated the pervasive influence of systemic discrimination and intensifying extreme weather events, along with factors such as food insecurity and poverty, as substantial impediments to progress in the health of women, children, and adolescents over the years.

The looming climate emergency casts a dark shadow, with over 150,000 global deaths attributed to climate-related factors in 2000 alone. Of these, a staggering 88 percent affected children. Moreover, an estimated 80 percent of those displaced by climate emergencies are women, a result of entrenched gender-based economic and social inequalities.

As the G20 presidency is currently held by India, the nation’s commitment to achieving universal health coverage and bolstering healthcare service delivery worldwide shines through. India’s robust digital health strategy, unveiled in 2021, serves as a testament to this dedication. Notably, this initiative facilitated the registration of a billion individuals, aiding in monitoring immunization coverage and administering over 1.78 billion covid-19 vaccine doses.

The call to action encompasses a multifaceted approach. G20 nations are urged to prioritize augmented cross-sector financing for strengthening health systems, improving access to vital health services, and addressing the underlying social determinants of health, including poverty and gender disparity. Notably, investments in physical and digital infrastructure, guided by a gender-sensitive perspective, could potentially alleviate the burden of unpaid labor, enhance well-being, stimulate employment, bridge the digital gender gap, elevate productivity, and stimulate economic advancement.

Helen Clark and Amitabh Kant voiced deep concern over the fact that several nations are still grappling with health expenses at pre-pandemic levels, which have taken an adverse toll on the health of women, children, and adolescents globally.

They advocated for robust data systems to effectively monitor and implement policies and programs. With G20 countries accounting for approximately 85 percent of global GDP and two-thirds of the global population, their potential to advance research, develop innovative health technologies, and vaccines is immense. A crucial aspect of this pursuit is the meaningful engagement of women, children, and adolescents in decision-making processes.

Lastly, they emphasized that investing in early childhood years, incorporating family-friendly policies, and establishing universal social protection measures are vital for nurturing cognitive capital. Such investments can propel inclusive economic growth by fostering intellectual skills developed prenatally and during early childhood. They concluded by asserting that the G20 must cement the health and well-being of women, children, and adolescents as a perpetual fixture on their action agenda.

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