Global business leaders will meet today with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Heads of the UN Health Agencies, senior officials from the Indian Health and Finance Ministries, and representatives of leading non-governmental organizations in Mumbai to discuss how Indian business leaders can help to ensure significant progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


The meetings will draw upon the extraordinary innovation, expertise, and reach of India‘s business community in reducing child and maternal mortality.


“The private sector is a critical partner in the Every Woman Every Child initiative I launched a year and half ago,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Much progress has been made in India, but to meet the Millennium Development Goals and save the lives of 16 million women and children, a collective effort from all sectors is required. The private sector can lead the way.”


Maternal, child and infant death rates in India are among the highest in the world, with 63,000 women and 1.7 million children under the age of 5 dying each year due to preventable causes. While some states in India have achieved the MDGs, more progress is needed in others to achieve the targets.


A key theme of the meetings will be the significant market opportunities for India‘s business community in scaling up optimal, affordable, and high-quality products and services in order to accelerate India’s progress towards the MDGs.


“It will be an honour to meet today with the UN Secretary-General and discuss how we in the business community can improve health outcomes in India,” said MDG Advocate and Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, Mukesh Ambani. “In tangible ways, we can use our business acumen to advance progress already underway to ensure healthier, stronger futures for women and children.”


Discussions will centre around public-private partnerships to promote health. One such effort to be discussed is a Public-Private Partnership to end Child Diarrheal Deaths in India. Currently 237,000 children under 5 die every year in India from dehydration caused by diarrhoea, but 90% of those deaths could be prevented if children were routinely given ORS with zinc.


Discussions will also focus on other opportunities, such as ways the private sector might improve access to effective malaria diagnosis and treatment, as well as how Indian pharmaceutical companies might usher in the next generation of affordable treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.


“India‘s global innovation and technological achievements can translate into victories at home as the private sector champions key interventions in health,” said MDG Advocate and the Secretary General‘s Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers. “The world can meet the health MDGs with India leading the way.”


Following a lunch and panel discussion, the Secretary-General and the UN Heads of Health Agencies, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, UNAIDS Executive Director Michele Sidibe, and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta, will visit two health facilities in the Mumbai area to witness first-hand the progress being made in communities and to speak directly with women, children and health workers.


In the evening, MDG Advocates Mr. Ambani and Mr. Chambers will host an event for members of the private, non-profit, government and creative sectors, highlighting ways in which each person and sector can advance the Every Woman Every Child movement and ensure progress for women‘s and children‘s health in India.


As MDG Advocates, Mr. Ambani and Mr. Chambers are among a handful of eminent leaders appointed by the Secretary-General to support the achievement of the MDGs by their target date of 2015.