Brown to address UN on world healthcare

By Liz Stephens

Gordon Brown will chair a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations (UN) general assembly on the issue of health care provision for developing countries tomorrow.

The prime minister plans to push for access to free healthcare for pregnant women, young mothers and children and scrap health charges.

The meeting comes as a report by Amnesty International revealed that one in eight women risks dying during pregnancy or childbirth in Sierra Leone and called the situation a “human rights emergency”.

Mr Brown hopes to convince other world leaders to meet the previously agreed millennium development goal to reduce maternal and child mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.

However, in an interview with The Guardian on the weekend, the international development secretary Douglas Alexander said progress on the goals was “significantly off track”.

The Amnesty report said that in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities.

However, Amnesty International’s secretary general Irene Khan said that the money from the UN general assembly would not go far enough.

“The lives of women and girls will only be saved when the health system is properly managed and the government is held to account,” she said.

“Money alone will not solve the problem. In Sierra Leone severe discrimination and the low social status of women underlies the terrible tragedy of maternal deaths.”

The controversial topic of health care will be a sore point for the Obama administration, which is currently fighting to push through its own legislation to offer a state-run health insurance scheme for the most impoverished US citizens.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic by suggesting that the Obama healthcare proposals mimicked the NHS which he referred to as a “60 year mistake”.

Social networking site Twitter crashed under the weight of people tweeting in defence of the NHS following his remarks.