Every year, nearly six million mothers and children around the world die from preventable causes. That is more than the entire population of Norway that is wiped out every single year.
If we are to do anything about this shocking statistic, we have to focus on health, education and equality for women in international development work. This is especially true at a time when international cooperation is under pressure. Where others are reducing support for women's health, Norway wants to maintain and strengthen its efforts.

Every day, 40,000 girls under the age of 18 are married. Many will quickly have their first of many children. By becoming pregnant too early, before they themselves want to, their future opportunities are limited. Adolescent mothers will be in less of a position to feed and take care of both themselves and their children. Two hundred and fourteen million women in developing countries who do not want to become pregnant do not have access to modern forms of contraception.

Girls need to go to school, women must get to decide themselves when they want to have children, and they have to be allowed to work and realize their potential. Good health is the key to reach these goals. This was the backdrop when Norway, together with Canada, the UN and the World Bank launched the global financing facility (GFF) in 2015 to assist the 50 countries with the greatest need – to change how they are investing and financing their national health services for women, children and youth.

Several million women, children and youth have now received access to good health and nutrition services, and the majority of the first GFF-supported countries have established groundbreaking reforms for health financing. The GFF model is not only about aid. The countries themselves must invest, so that the GFF financing becomes a catalyst for mobilizing national and private investments.

GFF has helped Cameroon increase its health budget from eight percent of the national budget in 2017 to 20 percent by 2020. Nigeria is establishing a fundamental minimum package with health services for all Nigerians, and is also investing in health and nutrition for women, children, and youth. This is expected to mobilize approximately 150 million American dollars in new funds each year for health services through loans and contributions from various actors.

This year, Norway is worked to involve even more countries in this effort to achieve equality for women through better health, nutrition and control over their own lives. On November 5th and 6th, we are hosting a conference for GFF in Oslo, together with Burkina Faso, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will mobilize contributions that will be able to prevent the deaths of millions of women, children and youth in 50 countries.

GFF's goal is to raise two billion US dollars, which, according to GFF, will trigger 50 to 75 billion dollars in increased investment in children's and mothers' health in poor countries. GFF estimates that 35 million lives can be saved by 2030. Investing in people, their health, nutrition and education is one of the smartest things we can do to achieve sustainable development.

Equality cannot be achieved without access to good health services. Now it is time to make it a reality.

This article appeared in Norwegian in Dagsbladet on 23 October 2018