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U.S., Norway work jointly on moms' health

June 1, 2012 at 4:06 PM

OSLO, Norway, June 1 (UPI) -- The United States and Norway are working to improve maternal and child health in Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday in Oslo.

When announcing the United States committed $75 million in support, Clinton said the "Saving Mothers, Giving Life" initiative's goal is to reduce maternal mortality.

"I often think about issues like maternal health from a personal perspective because I am privileged to have known what it meant to me to have had the great good fortune and gift of my daughter," Clinton said.

"And I think about what it would have been like that cold February day in 1980 if I didn't know that the facility was available. Or were it available, I didn't really know for sure if it would be open. And I couldn't count on a doctor or a midwife or a nurse being present."

Clinton, in Oslo to attend a global health summit, said Norway was "one of the most generous nations on Earth when it comes not only to global health but so much more …"

The initiative is sponsored by the U.S. and Norwegian governments, the pharmaceutical firm Merck and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It was developed to strengthen district health services by building clinics and labs, training staff, improving supply chains, ensuring safe blood supplies and improving record-keeping systems.

"[If] you really want to know how strongly a country's health system is, look at the well-being of its mothers," Clinton said. "Because when a woman in labor experiences complications, it takes a strong system to keep her alive. It not only takes skilled doctors, midwives and nurses, it takes reliable transportation, well-equipped clinics and hospitals that are open 24 hours a day."

"Where these elements are in place, more often than not women will survive childbirth. When they aren't, more often than not they die or suffer life-changing, traumatic injuries," Clinton said.

During a media availability with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, Clinton said, "We also appreciate all the ways that Norway leads on global health, including through the co-chairing with Nigeria of the United Nations Commission on Lifesaving Commodities for Women and Children."

She pledged the same type of hand-in-hand work on the Child Survival Summit hosted by the United States, India and Ethiopia this month in Washington.

Stoere said he and Clinton also discussed issues of concern to both countries, such as global health and climate change and followed up on May's NATO summit in Chicago.

"We had a debate about the international financial situation, especially the economic situation in Europe, which is a concern for all of us," Stoere said.

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