The WHO Gets Help from a Borås Lecturer

The United Nations, through its Millennium Development Goal 5*, wants to reduce maternal mortality in the world by 70% up until 2015. But the fact is that maternal mortality is increasing, which led the World Health Organization to call all nurses and midwives with PhDs to a preliminary meeting in Geneva. Eva Robertson signed up and went to Geneva, Switzerland for four days at the beginning of August.
- The meeting in Geneva was the first meeting with the group in the department for Human Resources for Health dedicated to developing strategies and more for combating maternal mortality. The first thing we did was to assess the present situation. We then created a scheme and strategy for how to improve the situation over the next few years, depending on where in the world you are.

The meeting was a positive experience for Eva Robertson.
- I was really pleased to see people in the WHO making the most of then resources and deciding to use every cent in regions where it is needed.

In the way the four days in Geneva in August were a start, next year is intended to be the year where things take off and plans are realized. For three months, divided into two periods for Eva Robertson, she is set to be working in Geneva.
- I am going to learn about the WHO’s work and continue the strategy in order to find answers for Millennium Development Goal 5. Then I’m joining the group working to develop norms, standards and instruments to support that strategy, do evaluations and find out what competence is needed in each country, to combat their maternal mortality level. Since I speak Spanish I am going to act as a special support to the Latin American countries.

The WHO is working against governments and decision-makers, but the group that Eva Robertson is part of is doing the preparatory work.
- There are many reasons for high maternal mortality, among them HIV and the global state of conflict, which claims lives of mothers and children daily. If the mothers survive, it is easier for the children to survive. Another problem is that the western world is draining the developing countries of qualified labor. A Tanzanian colleague of mine was for a while the only gynecologist for a population of 500 000 people.
- The governments need help with fixing the problem and that is where my group comes into the picture. We develop ideas and help them think to get things done. In order to turn the trend around we have to get the governments to go along and understand the magnitude of this.

For Eva Robertson, working for the WHO is a bad deal economically. The only thing she gets through her work is a personal health insurance, but she also gets some backup from the University of Borås.
- I have been granted certain reimbursement by the dean at the school. I have also applied for means, but this project falls between various scholarships and research funds that you can apply for, so I think I will have to accept paying some of the costs myself, living expenses for example.
- I am very grateful that the University is supporting me in this, and I am determined to see that they benefit too. The school board is pushing universities to improve in the field of internationalization and thereby also the effect of migrant factors, which is where I would be a resource.”

Is there any realistic chance of reaching Millennium Development Goal 5?

- That depends completely on the governments, but looking at the climate issue you can’t help but feel pessimistic. Everybody blames everybody and everyone acts like kids. Things aren’t exactly like that on the health side, but things can happen, because women dying like that is not cheap. Every day, a number of women the equivalent of a filled jumbo jet, die without any reaction,” sighs Eva Robertson.

* The Millennium Development Goals are eight goals that can change the world. In 2000 the world’s nations jointly decided, through the UN, that the goals were to be reached before 2015. In brief, they are about halving the world’s poverty and hunger, basic schooling for everybody, increased equality and women’s position, reducing child and maternal mortality, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, ensuring an environmentally sustainable development and increasing cooperation in foreign aid, trade and debt reduction.