The global community recently declared a commitment to “create an environment—at the national and global levels alike—which is conducive to development and to the elimination of poverty”. This declaration led to an agreement on eight goals in key areas of global concern: the Millennium Development Goals. Central among those goals are two that aim to reduce maternal and child mortality, goals 4 and 5. Investment in maternal, newborn, and child health is not only a priority for saving lives, but is also critical to advancing other goals related to human welfare, equity, and poverty reduction.
The United Nations has led the global community in articulating a rights-based approach to health, giving special attention to mothers and children. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified in 1948, states that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance”. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in 1989, guarantees children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health.4 Other conventions and international consensus documents focus on redressing the gender-based discrimination that might undermine good health, particularly that of girls and women.