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Fifth SDG Seminar Highlights Efforts to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Developing Countries


Health and welfare for all

The fifth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seminar was held on January 7, 2019, and focused on efforts to improve maternal and child health in developing countries. The health of mothers and children is addressed in Goal 3 of the SDGs, “Good health and well-being,” which include among other targets, to reduce maternal mortality ratio and to reduce neonatal and under-5 mortality.

Speaker Akiko Hagiwara

The speaker was Dr. Akiko Hagiwara, Senior Advisor on Health at the Japan International Cooperation Agency, who has worked on initiatives to improve maternal and child health in countries including Jordan, Palestine, and Ghana. She spoke particularly about use of Japan’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Handbooks in these countries.

Dr. Hagiwara made a strong impression explaining the significance of improving maternal and child health in regions such as Palestine that face ongoing conflict and terrorism, where disparities from birth could lead to a sense of frustration toward an inequitable society. Enabling every child born to grow up cherished creates a foundation for building fair and stable societies.

Palestinian Maternal and
Child Health Handbook

After growing up, many of us have looked at the MCH Handbook our mothers gave us and realized that we were raised with love. It may be the same in Palestine. Dr. Hagiwara started her lecture by talking about things that are familiar to us and then broadened our perspective to the bigger issue of creating peaceful and stable societies.

She also gave a very interesting account of the difficulties of trying to improve maternal and child health in male-dominated societies such as those of the Middle East. In 2005-2008 there was a cooperation initiative to develop and distribute Palestine’s first MCH Handbooks. At that time fathers were seldom involved in raising their children, but a picture of a father was added to various pages of the handbook in order to convey the message that fathers' participation is important. Ten years later, fathers have started to get involved in child-rearing, with some expressing the idea that this is a father’s right. Of course, this is not solely due to MCH Handbooks, but Dr. Hagiwara’s remarks showed that tradition and culture are not immutable.

Attendees at seminar

Dr. Hagiwara graduated from the Ochanomizu University Letters and Education course before gaining a Ph. D. in the United States and moving into international cooperation in the field of maternal and child health. Her talk was also an inspiring example of a career path of a graduate of this university.

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