Statement by Dr Francisco Songane in honor of Mr Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Founding Chair of the Partnership Board

Statement by Dr Francisco Songane in honor of Mr Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Founding Chair of the Partnership Board

Statement by Dr Francisco Songane
in honor of Mr Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF
Founding Chair of the Partnership Board
New York, 13 December 2007 

The Partnership is honored to share this remarkable occasion dedicated to Kul Gautam.

Esteemed guests and colleagues,

Many of you are well aware of Kul Gautam’s role and leadership at UNICEF as Deputy Executive Director. In addition to his remarkable contributions to UNICEF, I would like to share a message on his role as the Chair of the Partnership Board, on behalf of more than 200 members of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

The Partnership joins UN agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA; donor and developing countries such as Norway and Nigeria, non-governmental organizations such as Save the Children or Global Health Council; and health care professional organizations such as International Pediatric Association or International Confederation of Midwives.

Kul Gautam has been our founding Chairman of the Partnership Board, which is the governing body of the Partnership, since its establishment in 2005. He provided a true vision, leadership and support throughout these primary two years of the Partnership’s work–in a way our “newborn” phase– which as you know has been the most critical period for future development of the Partnership.

Therefore, on behalf of all members and partners, I would like to say “Thank you” to Mr Kul Gautam for your dedication, determination and premier leadership. We will always look upon you, Kul, as a source of wisdom, and use the magnificent experiences we shared with you as a reference point.

Kul, the UNICEF you led has been a pivotal player in the Partnership. And our collective efforts to achieve improved and integrated continuum of care for mothers, newborns and children are growing stronger and more comprehensive.

The healthier the women and mothers are, safer and brighter will be the future of our newborns and children. Through expanded delivery of access to the continuum of care for maternal, newborn and child health, we can reverse many of the unjust deaths of nearly 10 million children and half a million of mothers happening every year. The consensus is building that the strengthening of the health systems could be gauged by the scale we improve delivery of health care for mothers and children.

Thanks to your tireless work guiding the Partnership and its members, the issues of maternal, newborn and child health are being recognized and discussed at more and more fora among partners. During this outgoing 2007, we witnessed a surge of new innovation and campaigns to recognize the importance of MDGs 4 and 5, and the urgency of support to countries and communities to deliver better maternal, newborn and child health services.

A championing group of donor countries, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada and others have stepped up to join the “Global Campaign for the health MDGs” revitalizing international support for women, mothers, and their children.

And indeed, the midway to MDGs to be achieved by 2015, is the critical time for all partners and players to jointly re-define our vision and commitment so that we move forward together, towards our common goal — the MDGs 4 and 5, in the context of the fulfillment of our promises to meet all the MDGs.

Now, on a personal note, I would also like to remark on Kul’s incredible contribution to GAVI: that was my first exposure to the great ideas Kul was always able to generate. As a fellow colleague working together in the GAVI Board, I took pride in his extraordinary influence in setting strategic vision for GAVI, in a sense that it is not just a “one-off” effort, but a “long-term global initiative” with successful operations that changed lives of many communities in poor countries now. One vivid example which is a now a matter of celebration is the remarkable reduction measles deaths in Africa in the last years.

Kul said, “to save the lives and improve the health and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable children and women is the worthiest of human purposes.” He made this concept his vision. And today we can provide so many initiatives that he started to make his vision come true. And we can see how his vision touched upon millions of lives. His vision leaves an entire legacy of his contributions to health and development, for generations after to follow.

It is a great honor that we have been a part of your legacy Kul Gautam, and moreover, you are leaving us with more to be done to continue your vision. Thank you again.