Ban to meet business leaders for UN health agenda

Mumbai, April 28: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will later Saturday meet business and social leaders here to discuss ways and means to achieve the health-related UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an official said.

According to the official, top global business leaders will meet Ban and heads of UN health agencies to discuss progress towards achieving the MDGs. Senior officials from the Indian health and finance ministries, and representatives of leading NGOs will also join the meeting.

“It will be an honour to meet with the UN secretary-general and discuss how we in the business community can improve the health sector in India,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries Ltd.

“In tangible ways, we can use our business acumen to advance progress already under way to ensure healthier and better future for women and children,” Ambani said.

To achieve the MDGs in India, Ban in 2010 had launched the Every Woman Every Child programme, which aimed to save 16 million women and children in the country by 2015.

“Much progress has been made in India, but to meet the MDGs and save the lives of 16 million women and children, a collective effort from all sectors is required. The private sector, a critical partner in the initiative, can lead the way,” said the UN chief, currently on a three-day visit to India.

He added that maternal, child and infant death rates in India were among the highest in the world with 63,000 women and 1.70 million aged under five dying each year due to causes that could be prevented.

While some Indian states have achieved the MDGs, more progress is needed in others to achieve the targets, Ban said.

A key agenda of Saturday’s meeting will be significant market opportunities for India’s business community to scale up optimal, affordable and high-quality products and services to accelerate the country’s progress towards MDGs.

Focusing on the public-private partnership model to promote health, the discussions will be on efforts to end child deaths due to diarrhoea.

Around 237,000 children under five years of age die each year from dehydration caused by diarrhoea, but 90 percent of these deaths could be prevented if the children were routinely given ORS with zinc.

Other areas of focus will be the private sector’s participation in effective malaria diagnosis and treatment and how Indian pharma companies can introduce the next generation of affordable drugs for treatment of multi-drug resistant TB (tuberculosis), a top official accompanying Moon said.

“India’s global innovation and technological achievements can translate into victories at home as the private sector champions key interventions in health. The world can meet the health MDGs with India leading the way,” said Ray Chambers, Ban’s Special Envoy for Malaria.

Later today, Ban, World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan, UN Population Fund executive director Babatunde Osotimehin, UNAIDS executive director Michele Sidibe and UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta will visit two health facilities in Mumbai.

In the evening, Mukesh Ambani and Chambers will host an event for representatives of private, non-profit, government and creative sectors, highlighting ways in which each sector can help to ensure better health for women and children in India.

Ambani and Chambers are among a handful of eminent leaders appointed by Ban to support achievement of the MDGs by 2015.

IANS