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At the 62nd convening of the World Health Assembly, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke forcefully, castigating international signatories that have stood idly while maternal mortality remains “the slowest moving target of all the Millennium Development Goals.” Adamant in his conviction, Ban Ki-moon maintains that there is “no single issue that ties together the security, prosperity, and progress of our world than women’s health;” he cites the “damning statistics” complied by UN agencies that estimate 500,000 mothers die from complications during pregnancy and child birth each year.

In this, a “critical juncture for global health,” the Secretary General mentions the recent H1N1 influenza virus as the most recent reminder of the interconnected character of a globalized world. Pointedly, evocatively, he cautions: “Geography does not guarantee immunity. A threat to one is a challenge to all.”

Maternal health is widely recognized as an indicator of development within a state, the reverberations of which are reflected both positively and negatively throughout a society. In present, economically troubling conditions, concerns for women’s health have been shuffled further down the line in panicked triage schemes, which Ban Ki-moon warns may have devastating effects: “Children start falling ill again from preventable diseases. Families suffer. Communities break down. In the blink of an eye, the damage to generations can be too far gone. That is why I say that cutting investment on health at times of recession is not just morally wrong, it is economically foolish.”

Echoing the call of international NGOs and greater civil society, the Secretary General concluded in urging the adoption of an authentically collaborative spirit among governments and organizations, insisting that indeed we can only “move forward by thinking imaginatively…continu[ing] to connect our common challenges.” The impassioned Secretary General issued a call to action declaring that “In the 21st century, no woman should have to give her life to give life.”

Resilience and solidarity: our best response to crisis -Speech of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, WHO