Holding her child in her child in her arms, a woman smiles, at Kicukiro health clinic in the town of Kicukiro, on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, in 2011.
© UNICEF/ Noorani

The recommendations of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children seek to make the 13 essential commodities for family planning, maternal, newborn and child health more accessible to women and children who need them most, and better used. Advocacy and product innovation support these two objectives.

Millions of women and children die every year of preventable causes. Too often, affordable, effective medicines and simple health supplies do not reach the women and children who need them most.

The cost of these medicines is not the main factor: medicines for the prevention of bleeding after childbirth and treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia for example, such as oral rehydration solution and zinc and amoxicillin cost less than 50 cents per treatment — and can make the difference between life and death for mothers and their babies.

Evidence from developing countries suggests that, in addition to health system and financial impediments for both governments and end-users, three main types of barriers prevent women and children from accessing and using appropriate commodities: (1) the insufficient supply of high quality health commodities; (2) the inability to effectively regulate these quality commodities; and (3) the lack of access and awareness of how, why and when to use them, resulting in limited demand.

The recommended steps include bulk buying, local manufacturing, better distribution, increased awareness and know how about these commodities, innovative products and financing mechanisms, and increased demand help transform the supply, demand and use of quality life-saving products.

The topics addressed as part of implementing the UN Commission’s recommendations include:

Family planning

Maternal health

Newborn health

Child health

Demand, access and performance

Supply chain strengthening

Global markets, policy, regulation and quality


Digital health