Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is key to achieving the SDGs

Consider this: As per a study by the World Bank, had the world addressed 90 percent of global unmet need for family planning by 2015, it would have reduced annual births by almost 28 million, consequently preventing 67,000 maternal deaths, 440,000 neonatal deaths, 473,000 child deaths and 564,000 stillbirths.

Global data indicates that the greatest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would be seen in the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would result in such wide-ranging impacts while offering such incredible return on investment.

Governments working alone, or with development partners only, cannot do everything required to raise standards of health. They need the support of civil society and private sector with its talent, drive, expertise, and resources to leapfrog their health systems.

Turning to Kenya, it is important to note that the country has over recent years made important strides in improving health and wellbeing of its people. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KHDS) 2014 clearly shows this progress in a decline of the maternal mortality and childhood death ratios in Kenya. The progress is supported by the devolved system, where counties are increasing their allocation to the health sector. Denmark supports this by funding primary health care facilities directly through the counties.

But to maintain this momentum Kenya needs to urgently address issues affecting the health sector, create room for improvement and explore new avenues to expand universal primary health care through partnerships.

As Kenya’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Dr Stephen Karau in a powerful opinion piece says, Kenya can leapfrog universal primary health care.

To realize Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is important for the Government to continue to strengthen its stewardship over the health sector, to respect and support the role of the counties and to exploit the respective core strengths of all health providers and enablers efficiently and in an accountable manner, especially in vulnerable and remote areas.

The Government of Kenya has been shown leadership, commitment and capability through a Government and United Nations partnership in six counties on maternal and child health. It is addressing critical bottlenecks in the health systems in these six counties. These are Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Wajir, Isiolo and Lamu. These counties accounted for close to half of all maternal deaths in Kenya.

Improving maternal and child health in these six counties has positively impacted national trends and statistics. The initiative has mobilized a multitude of partners across sectors to go where not many went before and to collectively and holistically help increasing demand for and access to affordable quality maternal and child health care.

The Government of Denmark has committed $6 million to the second phase of the maternal and child health six county initiative. This is a vote of confidence on the impact the partnership of the Government of Kenya and the United Nations in Kenya is having on the ground.

Another very important initiative is the Private Sector Health Partnership Kenya, which was launched in September 2015 at the global launch of the UN Secretary’s Strategy for Every Woman, Child and Adolescent Health. This Partnership is a clear demonstration of how to mobilize non-traditional players in the development sphere. Driven by a clear vision and principles of engagement in the public-private partnership, various projects are already improving the health and well-being of the communities.

By engaging a wide range of partners there is great potential to develop new models that offer the best of both public and private sector, with the potential for scaling-up the delivery of healthcare for vulnerable and poor populations in low-resource settings. It also provides opportunity to ensure long-term engagement of partners, and sustainability and scalability of new models, through shared value creation.

The multi-stakeholder and cross-sector approach will not only lead to improved health outcomes but contribute to more education and employment opportunities for young people as partners will for example need trained staff, distributors, maintenance and servicing capabilities on the ground. This multiplier effect will support Kenya’s transition towards the demographic dividend and accelerate attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is marked by solidarity, participation and universality. Improving the effectiveness, quality and impact of development co-operation in this context will require inclusive partnerships, innovative approaches and the application of lessons at country level. In a shifting landscape, it is increasingly critical to break down the silos that have traditionally governed development financing and implementation.

But to make a difference for the one thousand women and girls who die every day in pregnancy or childbirth globally, we need to combine our efforts. There is a Kenyan proverb that says, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”

That’s why partnerships are often described as working in “concert”—after all it takes a whole orchestra to play a symphony. A symphony that “leaves no one behind”.