(Reuters) – Governments of 10 countries joined philanthropists and the European Commission on Tuesday to pledge $1 billion to a World Bank-backed fund for improving health and nutrition among millions of women and children in poor countries.

The money will help replenish the Global Financing Facility (GFF) – a fund set up in 2015 to help poor countries change the way they finance health by encouraging long-term investment in life-saving maternal and newborn health policies.

The GFF’s focus is on high-impact measures like newborn and childhood nutrition, access to contraception and key maternity services.

Its director, Mariam Claeson, said the new funds would help it bring about “transformative change” in global health.

Tuesday’s pledges included $360 million from Norway, $65 million from Britain and $58 million from Germany. They were “an important milestone” toward raising $2 billion for the GFF to be able to expand to 50 countries from the current 27, the fund said in a statement.

It said it was expecting additional pledges from new and existing investors who may make multi-year commitments.

“Healthy women, children and adolescents contribute to a virtuous cycle,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which committed $200 million to the GFF replenishment.

“With health comes the ability to go to school and learn, which helps people prosper as adults, who are then able to raise empowered children who continue the cycle.”

(The story corrects Norway pledge to $360 million in paragraph five)

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Andrew Roche)