The world parliamentarians ' meeting in Kampala will be dominated by maternal health issues, as African women and health experts push for more commitment to reduce the high pregnancy related deaths.
The one week Inter-Parliamentary Union meet opens tomorrow, March 31. Several consultations by different lobby groups over different issues, including one on maternal health have been taking place in Kampala prior to the IPU meet.
The health experts during the consultation at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo, said that they are concerned at the stubbornly high numbers of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth or as a result. They said that there is need to change strategy to tackle the issue from all fronts including Parliament and at societal level.
Statistics show that progress in the reduction of pregnancy related deaths was very slow that by 2006, it was only at 435 from 505 out of every 100,000 pregnant women. Other African countries have similar statistics with some worse off than Uganda though others are slightly better.
The UN set Millennium Development Goal number five targets a reduction to 131 or below out of 100,000 pregnant women by 2015. The experts said that clearly the goal may not be met since the 2015 is only three years away. The child mortality rates improved significantly from 183 out of 1000 live births to 54 currently.
The participants in the consultation on maternal health said that maternal health should not be tagged to the Millennium Development Goals, which would be beneficiaries see as alien. They said that instead people should be told how maternal health has been an African priority for a very long time and relate it to their own situations so that they do not think it is dictated from above.
The Participants also objected to an approach of the vocal pro-rights advocates of ridiculing pro-life, traditional and religious groups that believe in prayer as a solution. They said that these groups have a large following and commands have a big influence on society.
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi a Ugandan MP on the Parliamentary Commission and chair of the Parliament's forum for Food security and Development said that resources alone should not be blamed for the high maternal mortality rates.
Baryomunsi who closed the consultation on Wednesday, said that even in cases where money was available there has not been impact'. Instead, he said, "we should examine ourselves and see if we are doing the right thing and make ourselves accountable to that woman who s died or is sick due to pregnancy.
He said that the causes of maternal deaths are known but the question should be can't it be stopped? "We must address ourselves to accountability and this does not mean only those who handle money, it in whatever we are doing, as MPs, Civil society organisations,. Donors, professionals and others in positions of responsibility.. The question of accountability remains extremely important...," he said.
He said that the other question should be political will to deal with maternal health. He said that in the Abuja conference 15 years ago, African government committed themselves to committing 15% of the budgets to health, but few of them have done it..
He said that the MPs should be taken to task because they are the ones who allocate resources. He said that several countries like Uganda and Tanzania are trying to make laws to address safe motherhood.