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Distinguished Mr. Zhang Wenkang, Lifelong Honorary President of CMCHA,

Distinguished Mr. Chen Ziquan, President of CMCHA,

Distinguished Mr. Wang Canping, Deputy Director of Health and Family Planning Commission of Yunnan Province,

Dear friends, colleagues, ladies and gentleman,

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it is my pleasure to deliver remarks on the occasion of the 7th Forum on Maternal and Child Health Development. I would like to thank the China Maternal and Child Health Association and the Health and Family Planning Commission of Yunnan Province for convening this important event.

Since 1990, the world has seen a 44 per cent decline in the maternal death ratio – an enormous achievement.  The global maternal mortality ratio has fallen from 385 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 216 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.  But in spite of these gains, in 2015, an estimated 303,000 women died of causes related to pregnancy or childbirth which means some 830 women still die every day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. This is about one woman every two minutes.  Hence, working for the survival of mothers is a human rights imperative, and it is also a development priority.  The International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) called for achieving a 75 per cent reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015; this remains an unfinished agenda.  The new Sustainable Development Goals call for bringing the maternal mortality ratio down to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.  Global evidences show that the best way to achieve this ambitious target is to: ensure all women have access to contraception to avoid unintended pregnancies; provide all pregnant women with skilled and respectful care in a safe environment during delivery; and make sure women with complications have timely access to quality emergency obstetric care.

In the areas of women and children health, China has reached the MDG 4 in reducing infant mortality and MDG5 in reducing mortality ahead of the schedule. Nevertheless, like in other countries in the world, there is still much to be done such as responses to the increasing demand on quality maternal services and family planning services in light of China’s new fertility policy effective this year, improved equity of maternal and child health services, reduction of high caesarean sections, prevention of unintended pregnancies among both the married and unmarried people, especially the youth, and earlier diagnosis and treatment of emerging diseases threatening to women’s health including breast cancer, cervical cancer, among others. 

The Chinese government attaches great importance to national advancement of the SDGs and there is strong link between the SDGs, the 13th Five-year plan, and the Healthy China 2030 planning outline announced last month which re-affirms the strong commitment of China's top leadership to people's health.  The Healthy China 2030 provides the guideline for promoting people's health in the coming 15 years and emphasized that health, including reproductive health and rights, is a necessary prerequisite for the overall development of the people, as well as the foundation for the sustainable development of the society. 

Ensuring universal access to reproductive health and rights including safe motherhood is a top priority for UNFPA. UNFPA works at the global, regional and national levels to promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights, including by promoting international maternal health standards and providing support to resilient health systems.  Since 2011, UNFPA has been working with the CMCHA, the Nursing and Public Health Schools of Peking University, and the Health Department of Hunan Province towards a more favorable policy environment for midwifery development in China. We are pleased that the collaboration with this wide range of stakeholders, including the government, NGOs, academic institutions has contributed to notable accomplishments including success in advocacy for recognition of midwives’ role and mobilizing support for conducting formal education in midwifery in bachelor degree medical education.

In the new cycle of cooperation between the Government of China and UNFPA, which started this year and will run until 2020, we are committed to continue supporting the efforts of the national partners in developing a quality midwifery workforce. In particular, the focus of collaboration in the next five years will be on evidence-based advocacy and advisory services towards a policy environment that recognizes midwifery as a distinct profession in the health system. This recognition is expected to facilitate more investments in quality education and training for new and current midwives, promote high standards for midwifery service delivery, and ultimately result in better quality of care to expectant mothers and newborns in China.  

The globalization of health issues is becoming ever more important in the international development agenda.  China has made great progress in improving the maternal and child health of its population and has many valuable lessons and reflections to share with other developing countries.  As China continues to improve maternal and newborn health, international cooperation and knowledge exchange, especially with other developing countries through South-South Cooperation, provide great opportunities for China to learn from other countries’ experience, but also to share its extraordinary achievements to date, including in reducing maternal mortality. Building on its global networks and expertise, UNFPA stands ready to facilitate further international cooperation in maternal health and safe motherhood.

Participants of this Forum represent the diverse community of professionals, policy makers, programme managers and service providers in the field of sexual, reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health.  Your innovation and incessant efforts will surely contribute to the fulfillment of the SDGs in China. We, and other UN and international agencies, have enjoyed a fruitful cooperation with all of you along this journey of promoting women’s, adolescents and children health and are leading forward to continued close partnership.

I wish you a successful meeting and look forward to the discussions.  Thank you very much.