The New Times (Kigali)

26 May 2011

Africa Advised to Invest in Health

Africa and other developing countries have been advised to invest more in a skilled public health labour force to reduce Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality rates.

The call was made by Dr Laura Laski, Chief Officer, Sexual and Reproductive Health at the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) in an interview with The New Times from New York.

"A functioning health system with a well-trained health workforce at the community level where women and children live is required to address MNCH deaths and injuries", she said.

"It is clear that from some conditions that arise during pregnancy, it is not possible to predict complications; therefore a functioning health system needs to be close to where the population lives. The health system should be backed by efficient referrals to deal with complications." she said.

According to research, every year 358,000 women in the developing world aged 15-49 die of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications.

Every year, 2.6 million children are still-born and another 8.1 million die before their first birthday including 3.3 million babies in the first month of life.

Dr Laski commended Rwanda for allocating the highest domestic budget in the health sector, adding that the country should serve as example on the continent.

"All countries in Africa have promised to assign 15 % of their budget to health. Rwanda is allocating 18% already and this should serve as an example to the whole continent. It is important that the existing resources be distributed with equity on mind", she noted.

The expert accepted as true that with African political commitment and hard work by health sectors, the problem of maternal, new born and child mortality would be history.

Meanwhile, except Rwanda that has exceeded the target budget allocation to the health sector, 16 other countries in the world announced new commitments radically to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality as part of the global strategy for women's and health at the just concluded World Health Organization summit in Geneva.

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