Takeaways | Private Sector Opportunities to Support Maternal Health in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings

December 15, 2016
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET

GBCHealth, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), hosted a discussion on how private sector expertise, networks and resources can support continued access to maternal health care and services in emergency settings. Highlighting the Safe Birth Even Here campaign, UNFPA’s program to support pregnant women and children living in crises situations, corporate leaders currently active in the campaign examined specific entry points for engagement and discussed actions to increase impact on women and girls.



  • Dr. Henia Dakkak, Senior Technical Specialist, Humanitarian Response Branch, UNFPA, provided an overview of the current state of women and girls in humanitarian settings. At this time, 75% of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced persons are women and children and 60% of maternal deaths occur in humanitarian or fragile settings. During times of crisis, women and girls are at a heightened risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; unintended, unwanted pregnancies; maternal deaths and illness; and sexual- and gender-based violence, often used as a weapon of war.
  • As the number of internally displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers increases, along with an increase in the average time a person spends as a refugee (currently an average of 20 years), there is a growing need to make continuous access to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls a priority, including an undisrupted contraceptives supply.
  • UNFPA’s Safe Birth Even Here campaign works to ensure safe deliveries by establishing mobile clinics and training midwives and frontline health workers; to protect women’s health, safety and dignity; and to deliver life-saving supplies, equipment and medicines in times of crisis.
  • Johnson & Johnson believes in safeguarding the hope with which people continue to start and grow their families, even in the most fragile of environments. Joy Marini, Executive Director of Global Community Impact at Johnson & Johnson, highlighted unique opportunities for the private sector to engage, such as:

    • providing bridge funding when aid and government resources are constrained but demand for financial assistance increases.

    • lending skills, expertise and visibility to the issues of health and safety in conflict affected settings and advocating for access to safe maternal health services and increased financial support for continuity of health services in fragile and conflict affected states.

    • using core competencies to build capacity, strengthen institutions and institutional knowledge, and ensure necessary commodities including access to family planning tools and contraceptives continue to be delivered to conflict areas.

  • Challenges to private sector engagement include a lack of business interest, a perception of higher risk/rate of failure, rapidly changing conditions and weak institutions and infrastructure. However, to make an impact, companies need to view these obstacles through a different lens where a small percentage of investments in fragile states are part of a larger long-term social strategy.
  • A proud supporter of the Every Woman, Every Child campaign, Johnson & Johnson is working in one-third of current fragile nations. Tailored to address the needs of the nation and population they are working with, Johnson & Johnson supports health systems strengthening and advocacy with Safe Birth Even Here; health systems building in Haiti and Liberia; children’s healthcare and resilience in Syria and its neighboring nations; humanitarian relief through its in-country partners in time of disaster and crises; and health worker trainings in partnership with local governments, NGOs and public health organizations. Combining resources on the ground and an organizational desire to improve the lives of women and girls, Johnson & Johnson strives to achieve communities of success.
  • As part of their commitment to improving maternal, newborn and child health, Gisela Abbam, Global Executive Director of Healthcare Government Affairs & Policy at General Electric, is working with Safe Birth Even Here to develop affordable and sustainable healthcare solutions on the ground, such as crisis response trainings and supply chain strengthening. Through their Healthy Imagination® portfolio, which aims to develop 100 new low-cost technologies to improve health access and care in countries in need, GE Healthcare aims to foster innovation and collaboration across all stages of pre and post pregnancy.
  • In order to share the dream of a healthy pregnancy for mother and child with all, Sonja Hönig Schough, President of Zonta International, highlighted their work assembling and distributing clean birthing kits for emergency care to ensure the necessary and basic supplies for delivery. The organization has also been an active participant in the Global Campaign to End Fistula, focusing their prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support activities in Liberia.
  • Call to Action: Support the Safe Birth Even Here pledge:

I believe that all women and girls have a right to safe pregnancy and birth. I am committed to the Safe Birth Even Here campaign, and lend my voice to ensuring that all women in humanitarian and fragile situations have access to reproductive health care, including antenatal care, emergency obstetric care and safe delivery services to reduce needless maternal deaths. I am joining a global movement by the private sector to advance maternal health for women living in areas affected by, or prone to, conflicts or natural disasters.

  • To learn more about the Safe Birth Even Here campaign or about maternal health in fragile settings, contact Nisa Patel at .


What are the key challenges in conflict-affected or fragile states that are not found in other lower-middle income countries that are not categorized as fragile?

Dr. Henia Dakkak – “The challenges in conflict affected and or fragile states that are not found in other lower middle income countries are related to insecurity due to fighting or lack of law and order. Most of the time fighting might take place between the conflict parties and civilian can get caught in the middle.

Lack of law and order makes it easy in some fragile settings for civilian especially women and girls not to go out to seek help unless they have escorts or family members with them.

In such settings medical services and schools can be targeted as you might have seen recently in Syria and other parts of the world. So health facilities can be destroyed, burned, bombarded, etc and health personnel killed. There has been an increase fatality among health and medical staff global who are working in such settings. So access issues for women and girls become a big challenge.

Lack of infrastructure and systems or disruption of services is additional challenge in such settings.

I think the challenges are numerous in such settings. Lack of leadership and rule of law are definitely high on the agenda in such settings.”


Dr. Henia Dakkak, Senior Technical Specialist, Humanitarian Response Branch, UNFPA

Dr. Henia Dakkak is a medical doctor, a public health specialist and a past Fulbright post doctorate research scholar.

As Senior Technical Advisor with Humanitarian Response Branch at United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Dakkak provides technical support and advice to UNFPA country offices dealing with emergency situations in regards to sexual and reproductive health issues, gender based violence and gender during humanitarian crisis and in post conflict and recovery settings.

Before Joining the UN in June 2004, Dr. Dakkak was the Director of Relief and Development programs with International Medical Corps (IMC), she managed and developed the technical aspect of service delivery programming to improve quality of care within IMC overseas programs in relief and development settings throughout Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and South East Asia.

Before joining International Medical Corps, Dr. Dakkak worked as technical advisor for the Reproductive Health in Conflict Consortium, providing technical advice and training to 11 projects being implemented by the consortium members within 9 countries of conflict and post conflict settings.

Joy Marini, Executive Director, Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson

Joy Marini is Executive Director, Global Community Impact (GCI), Johnson & Johnson, a position she assumed in 2007 following six years with the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute.

Joy leads the Company’s global public health and development team focused on improving health for women, children and adolescents. This portfolio includes programs worldwide on maternal and infant survival, child health, and women’s and girls’ empowerment.  Joy was actively engaged in the Company’s commitment to Every Woman Every Child that reached over 400 million women and children.  She now heads the Johnson & Johnson 5-year commitment to the Every Newborn Action Plan and the Johnson & Johnson Citizenship and Sustainability commitment, which will improve skills and knowledge of birth attendants and mothers in 20 countries.

Joy has co-developed or led public-private partnerships including Born on Time, Survive & Thrive, and the China Neonatal Resuscitation Program, which is now in its 11th year. She and her team work with UN, Civil Society and Government partners to develop sustainable programs that range from clinical training,  to the integration of health, equity and empowerment.

Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Joy was in clinical practice as a PA.  She has also held sales, marketing and continuing medical education roles at Bristol-Myers Squibb and the PR divisions of Omnicom and Grey Advertising.  She is an active blogger on the Huffington Post and other media outlets, and can be followed on Twitter @joymarini.

Gisela Abbam, Global Executive Director, Healthcare Government Affairs & Policy, General Electric

Gisela Abbam, M.B.A. is the Global Executive Director for Government Affairs & Policy for GE Healthcare.  Gisela is responsible for the strategic direction of GE Healthcare global government affairs and policy. She works in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), UN, World Bank and Governments globally to improve health outcomes.

Gisela has written over 40 Ministerial briefings on various policy issues including health reform. Gisela is also currently the Chair of the Global Diagnostic Imaging, Healthcare IT & Radiation Therapy Trade Association (DITTA) WHO Working Group.  Gisela joined GE Healthcare in 2007 after 13 years working in the National Health Service and Local Government in the UK. Gisela was one of the leadership team that set up of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). She developed the Operating Model and Structure for the Centre and subsequently led programme management of national Public Health guidance for UK such as Smoking Cessation, Behaviour Change and Maternal and Child Health.

Sonja Hönig Schough, President, Zonta International

Sonja Hönig Schough is the president of Zonta International and Zonta International Foundation for 2016-2018. Zonta started in 1919 in Buffalo, New York, USA and has grown to be an organization of almost 30,000 members in 66 countries. Zonta’s mission is to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy.

Sonja worked for 25 years as a Nordic human resources director for Beiersdorf AB, a subsidiary of an international consumer goods company. She has also worked as a senior business consultant for IFS Scandinavia, where her responsibilities were to implement information technology support within human resources for customers based in Scandinavia but with subsidiaries all over the globe.

In addition to her career and Zonta leadership, Sonja has served as chairman of an Industrial Health Service Company. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, both from the University of Gothenburg.

Nisa PatelTakeaways | Private Sector Opportunities to Support Maternal Health in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings