UN conference in Abu Dhabi says rethink needed in crisis aid for women

UN conference on maternity care for world trouble spots.

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ABU DHABI // A rethink is needed in delivering aid to women and children in crisis-hit areas of the world, a UN conference in the capital has heard.

Donors must balance emergency aid that helps pregnant women, new mothers and their children at the time of crisis, and more sustainable assistance leading to development.

Reem Al Falasi, secretary general of the UAE’s Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, said: “We seek to strike a better balance between an emergency approach that responds to urgent needs, and longer-term investment that can contribute to sustainable development.

“That is precisely why the [UN’s] Every Woman, Every Child initiative is so important to world efforts for the health and well-being of women and children, today and tomorrow.”

Ms Al Falasi was speaking on behalf of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, president of the SCMC and widow of the founding President Sheikh Zayed.

The two-day event is looking at ways to give women access to quality maternal health care.

It will present policy recommendations for the next global strategy in the UN’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative, the state news agency Wam reported.

Those attending include representatives from UN agencies, governments, education bodies and philanthropists. It was organised by the UN Population Fund and the SCMC.

The focus is on reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health in areas affected by conflict and disasters.

Ms Al Falasi said the past 15 years were filled with severe humanitarian situations that challenged governments to rethink their approach to aid and development.

“The UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, consistently and passionately supported efforts by the country’s women to play a full role as partners in society, contributing not just at home but overseas,” she said.

“We are committed to helping and supporting women who need access to quality maternal health care that can help save their lives and their babies, wherever they are.

“We are committed to the health and welfare of newborns, children and adolescents and we know this means providing them with quality services in all circumstances, so that they may grow into healthy adults.”

Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, who led the meeting, said the discussions were intended to boost international support for people in crisis-hit areas of the world.

“Our aim is to identify how we can improve and redouble our efforts so that our support and interventions are better adapted to the new realities of protracted humanitarian situations, the upsurge in conflicts in several regions, and increasingly limited levels of overseas development aid, largely caused by the global economic downturn of the last few years,” she said.

“These regrettable developments are bringing an untenable impact on the lives of those who can least afford it, namely mothers, newborns, children and adolescents.”

The meeting aims to implement the UN’s Millennium Development Goals this year, and discussed new goals to strengthen resilience and fast response and recovery from crises.

Sheikha Fatima is also chairwoman of the General Women’s Union and supreme chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.

The event will continue on Wednesday at the Yas Viceroy hotel.