‘Let Us Save Our Children; Let Us Resolve Ourselves, Here in Nigeria, to Do All We Can’ to Stamp Out Malaria Death, Says Secretary-General

Being text of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Dutse Makaranta primary health care centre, in Abuja, Nigeria, 23 May:
How una dey? [How are you?] Yesterday, I recorded Maitama General Hospital and I am very pleased to visit the Dutse Makaranta health centre.
As you know, I was born in a very small village in Korea. When I was born in 1944, my mother gave birth alone, maybe with the help of some elderly women in the town, in the village. There were no doctors, no midwives. I was just born, when, after a few years, the Korean War broke out. My mother gave birth to my sister in January, while it was so cold, while we were fleeing — we were sort of displaced persons. I was just 6 years old. We walked in deep snow. My mother had to walk with a newly born baby — just two days after. She had to walk at least six or seven kilometres in the snow. Since then, my memory of my mother when she was young [was that] she was sick all the time. Sometimes I had to cook when I was young because I was the eldest.
In the old days in Korea, the parents, the fathers, they did not register the birth of their children because they were not sure that this child would live. At that time, people just waited: “let us wait [to see] whether this boy or girl can live”. Sometimes they waited one year, two years or three years. Even I confess that my birthday is not exactly true — what you see in my passport is a different date, because my father was not sure whether I would live. That’s what happened and that is what I see still in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa.
One thousand women die every day because of complications of pregnancy. Twenty thousand children are dying needlessly every day because of diseases — preventable diseases. Sixty-seven years after I was born, the same thing is still repeating [itself]. But I am encouraged that the Government is [training] midwives, the Government has built health-care centres; you have many general hospitals as I have seen yesterday. And thousands of nurses are being trained in school and they are helping these women and children.
Yesterday, I met young infants — three days old, four days old, five days old. I thought, how happy they are, how lucky they are compared to my old days. That’s why I went travelling in many parts of Africa — trying to meet the people. I am feeling exactly like you. I am just one of you; I am just one of you. That’s why I feel much more commitment; I am much more committed to eradicate diseases and improve these unacceptable situations.
I commend the leadership of President [Goodluck] Jonathan. His vision and leadership led the National Assembly to pass this initiative — the National Health Care Bill was adopted by the National Assembly while they are still debating the whole budget issue. This is extraordinary, this is real, true leadership. When there is leadership, it can make a difference. That is what I am doing as Secretary-General of the United Nations: just to deliver [a] difference to all the people who need our support, need our helping hand.
I will continue to work with the developed world — traditional donors; I will work with the leaders of the African continent; I will work with business leaders. We need a tripartite partnership — Government, business and civil society. When they are united in a tripartite partnership, I think we can make it.
We have been providing mosquito nets to millions of children. Three years ago during the G-8 summit meeting, I [appealed] to the G-8 leaders in Japan, [saying] that I need $1 billion. One insecticide-treated mosquito net costs $10. Under one net, five children can live. If you give me $1 billion, I can buy 100 million mosquito nets that we can give to protect 500 million children. We can save lives. We have been saving many lives [inaudible]. Still, unfortunately, many people die before they celebrate their fifth birthday.
We have almost eradicated polio — there are only four countries in the world [where it exists], including Nigeria. I urge religious leaders, local community leaders, to educate [their] people so that they do not misunderstand [or believe] wrong rumours. We have to eradicate this malaria death. By 2015, we are committed to seeing the general death of malaria-related diseases.
Let us save our children. Let us resolve ourselves, here in Nigeria, in this health-care [centre], to do all that we can. Political leaders should demonstrate their political leadership. Business leaders should try to contribute their money to community leaders. And community leaders and civil society leaders — they have to raise awareness and educate people. Then we will have healthy women who will give birth to healthy children. This will make your society, our society, healthy. These will be the days when we will be leaving in a better world for all. Thank you, thank you again for your commitment