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UNITED NATIONS — Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has welcomed the action plan adopted by world leaders to redouble their efforts to reduce maternal death and poverty and improve the health and rights of women.

The plan, entitled, “Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, was adopted on Wednesday night at the 20–22 SeptemberMillennium Review Summit, attended by some 89 Heads of State and Government.

“Now all leaders of the public and private sectors must step up investments in education, employment and health, especially reproductive health, including family planning,” said Ms. Obaid. “This will speed progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

In the action plan, world leaders stressed that accelerating progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals is essential for making headway on the other goals. They pledged to redouble efforts to reduce maternal and child death, improve the health of women, strengthen national health systems and combat HIV and AIDS.

Calling women agents of development, the leaders said that “investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth.”

In the 81-paragraph action plan, leaders make specific commitments on each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Some key provisions of the plan:

On Goal 5, to improve maternal health, they commit to speeding up progress by:

  • Taking steps to realize the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health;
  • Addressing reproductive, maternal and child health in a comprehensive manner, by providing family planning, skilled attendance at birth, emergency obstetric care and methods for preventing and treating sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, within strengthened health systems;
  • Emphasizing the need for universal access to reproductive health by 2015, including integrating family planning, sexual health and health-care services in national strategies and programmes;
  • Acting to tackle the root causes of maternal death, such as poverty, harmful practices, lack of health care services and gender inequality;
  • Ensuring that all women, men and young people know of and have access to the widest range of safe, effective and acceptable methods of family planning;
  • Expanding the provision of comprehensive obstetric care and strengthening the role of skilled health care providers, including midwives and nurses.

On Goal 6, to combat HIV and AIDS and other diseases, they commit to:

  • Redoubling efforts to achieve universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support services;
  • Significantly intensifying prevention efforts and increasing access to treatment by scaling up programmes to reduce the vulnerability of persons more likely to be infected with HIV;
  • Prevention programmes that respect cultures and encourage responsible sexual behaviour, including abstinence and fidelity, and expand access to essential commodities, including male and female condoms, and more access to voluntary and confidential counselling and testing.

The Summit asked the United Nations General Assembly to review progress annually and hold a special event in 2013 to follow-up on efforts to achieve the Goals.