29 January 2013

Africa: Improve Maternal Health, African Leaders Urged

Addis Ababa — THE United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) has called for increased personal commitment among African leaders to improve maternal health on the continent.

UNPFA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin said African countries must increase and ensure better use of domestic resources for maternal health.

He was speaking during the high-level event on the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) during the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).

Dr Osotimehin said other measures should include empowering ministries of health to intensify, share and replicate good maternal health interventions.

"There is need to increase your personal commitment, including mobilizing the entire country and promoting everyone's involvement to improve the health of mothers and children," Dr Osotimehin told Heads of State attending the AU Summit.

Dr Osotimehin a physician and a former minister of Health for Nigeria, said the increased involvement of First Ladies in various African States also contributed to a healthier and wealthier Africa.

He said UNFPA looked up to the First Ladies, policy makers, parliamentarians, opinion leaders and communities to help advance issues related to the reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa.

He reaffirmed a strong and mutually reinforcing partnership between CARMMA and the United Nations Global Strategy on Women's and Children's Health to continue supporting the AU and its memberstates to monitor the progress of CARMMA and other maternal health interventions.

CARMMA is an AU commission initiative to promote renewed implementation of the Maputo Plan of Action for the reduction of maternal mortality in Africa.

It also aims to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goal Number Five of improving maternal health.

Dr Osotimehin said despite some strides made in reducing maternal deaths by 41 per cent in Africa during the period 1990 to 2010, too many women were died from pregnancy-related causes.

Dr Osotimehin said 165,000 women were dying every year representing an average of 450 women dying every day from pregnancy-related causes in Africa which are preventable.

He said in Sub-Saharan Africa, the life-time risk of maternal death for women is one in 39, while in industrialised countries, it is one in 4,700.

AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it was gratifying that African leaders were taking action as evidenced by the progress recorded so far.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said to date, 37 memberstates had launched CARMMA and undertaken targeted actions to deliver on commitments.

"CARMMA has become an example of a successful continental initiative with national ownership," she said.

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