Niamey, Niger: July 6, 2019: African Union Heads of State and Government meeting in Niamey, Niger have been commended for their visionary stewardship which has led to the realisation and achievement of successful reproductive health rights and services across the continent over the last 25 years.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, complimented the African leaders in Niamey, Niger on 6th July 2019, on the eve of the 12th Extraordinary Summit whose milestone is the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); as well as holding their First Mid-Year Coordination meeting with Heads of Regional Economic Communities.
“African women’s access to family planning has increased. Over the last 25 years, skilled birth attendance by qualified midwives has also increased, cutting by half the risk of women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.” Dr. Kanem says.
Speaking during the presidential dinner hosted by Nigerien President Mahamadou Issofou the UNFPA Executive Director cited a one third drop in maternal mortality in West and Central Africa. Dr. Kanem linked the remarkable change and concrete results to brilliant initiatives attained through the roll out of the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).
The dinner had in attendance over 1,000 guests, including over 15 Heads of State and Governments, First Ladies, Ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Technical and Financial Partners as well as Regional Economic Communities. The entire leadership of the African Union Commission, Organs and Agencies were equally present.
The dinner was spiced by sterling performance by one of Africa’s music legends, Youssou N’dour, and a fashion parade by some of Africa's talented haute couture designers from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa.
In the spirit of working towards the "Africa We Want", and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, Dr. Natalia Kanem noted that in spite of the progress made, there are still gaps and challenges.
She took the opportunity to invite all AU Heads of States and Government to attend a Summit in Nairobi, from 12-14 November 2019, during which they will recommit efforts aimed at accelerating the promise of availing access to sexual and reproductive health and rights to millions of women and girls.
This year marks a significant milestone to UNFPA as it marks its 50th anniversary as well as the international community commemorates 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994.
Dr Kanem took the opportunity to deliver on a promise she made to over 150 girls she had an interactive dialogue earlier during the day. They had requested her to deliver three key messages to the African Heads of State. She said:
- They want you to help them stay in school
- They want you to end child marriage
- They want you to enable them to fulfill their dreams. She concluded.
The Executive Director also hailed the African leaders for successful trajectory of the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD), which is a “home-grown, country led, country owned initiative,” backed by the World Bank and other key partners,” for the solid results achieved so far in improving the lives of women and girls.
Dr. Kanem addressed the opening of a SWEDD roundtable conference aimed at mobilizing further resources for the second phase of the project. The successes of the SWEDD project have led to increased demands from Member States to scale up its interventions.
The UNFPA Executive Director had also visited some UNFPA supported projects in the field.