Arusha — Legislation is a key component in galvanizing efforts to improve Maternal Health, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) as a foundation on which humanity and future generations lie. A one-day seminar organized to induct EALA Members on the subject matter of MNCH has further called for enhanced parliamentaryoversight functions in ensuring governments and other actors are held accountable with regards to allocation of the required resources and intended results.
The Seminar held in conjunction with the Inter-Parliamentary Union heard that a new paradigm shift in defining development was key and called for careful consideration of macro-economic policies and indicators, especially those that affect women and children.
In her opening remarks, the Speaker of EALA, Rt. Hon Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, called on the region to put on check child health, high mortality and morbidity to enable the EAC strive towards realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She urged legislators to fulfill their mandate through their core functions of legislation, oversight and budget scrutiny. The Speaker added that statistics on child and maternal mortality painted a grim picture and called for a reversal in the trend.
'Looking at East Africa, trends in maternal mortality by WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and World Bank 2010 & 2012 puts the under 5 mortality rate per 1,000 live births for Burundi at 142 while annual number of 'under 5' deaths is 138,000 which is the same for Rwanda while Uganda is 141,000. These statistics are alarming and a lot still needs to be done and information is vital if this war is to won' Rt. Hon Zziwa stated.
'Without proper measures, it is inconceivable that the region would be able to make a significant impact in realizing the MDGs' the Speaker remarked.
The representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Sue Mbaya remarked that the IPU had with the support of partners developed an orientation manual on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health for Parliamentarians. The Manual which is based on the IPU Handbook on MNCH for Parliamentarians is envisaged to enable Parliamentarian to contribute to women's and children's health.
A facilitator, Dr. Zhou Hama from South Africa noted that while there were some gains made in reducing infant and under-five mortality and morbidity in many of the countries in the sub-region, more central focus on the part of governments was necessary. On his part, Dr. Chris Oyepipo said the sub-Saharan region was witnessing a gradual dip in HIV and AIDS but maintained that it was not yet time to celebrate.
In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the EALA Committee on General Purpose, Hon Dr. Martin Nduwimana urged Parliamentarians to bravely and deliberately engage in controversial discussions revolving on the issues of abortion, early marriage and certain cultural practices.
The participants emphasised the need for EALA to incorporate certain recurring themes into their plans of action. Such include:
· the constant demand for more and better quality health-related information to support advocacy and decision making by EALA and national Parliaments
· improving allocation of resources and revisiting policies to ensure the improved training, empowerment and working conditions of health workers especially at the lower levels and in rural areas.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The IPU is the international organization of Parliaments established in 1889 and with headquarters in Geneva Switzerland.
The Union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.
To that end, it:
· fosters contacts, co-ordination, and the exchange of experience among parliaments and parliamentarians of all countries;
· considers questions of international interest and concern and expresses its views on such issues in order to bring about action by parliaments and parliamentarians;
· contributes to the deface and promotion of human rights - an essential factor of Parliamentary democracy and development;
· contributes to better knowledge of the working of representative institutions and to the strengthening and development of their means of action.
The IPU supports the efforts of and works in close co-operation with the United Nations, whose objectives it shares. The Union also co-operates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations, as well as with international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations which are motivated by the same ideals.
In October 2011, the IPU adopted its Strategy 2012-2017 under the overall title "Better Parliaments, stronger Democracy".
For More Information, contact: Bobi Odiko, Senior Public Relations Officer; East African Legislative Assembly; Tel: +255-27-2508240 Cell: +255 787 870945, +254-733-718036; Email: Web: http://www.eala.org Arusha, Tanzania.