News / Health

AU Summit to Address Africa's Poor Maternal Care Record

African heads of state are gathering in Kampala this week to face an embarrassing question: why does Africa lag so far behind the developed world in rates of maternal and infant mortality? Africa's women are pushing their mostly male leaders to address the continent's failure in providing mother and child health care.

The numbers are alarming. In the developed world, a woman dying during childbirth is rare. By contrast, in Africa nearly a quarter of a million women a year die of pregnancy or childbirth related causes.

Even worse, a recent study indicated progress in curbing maternal mortality almost every place in the world except sub-Saharan Africa.

As the point person for women's issues, Bience Gawanas, African Union Commissioner Of Social Affairs, and the veteran Namibian human-rights activist, has traveled the continent repeating the mantra, "No woman should die giving life".

She says the decision to make women's and children's health the theme of this summit is a sign Africa's policymakers are getting the message.

"Issues of maternal mortality need the urgent action of our heads of state if we are to reverse the negative image of women dying on our continent," said Gawanas.

Gawanas has won the attention of Africa's male-dominated leadership, partly by enlisting their first ladies to promote a women's and children's health care initiative known as CARMMA.

"Before we came to this summit we did a lot of work. Last year the African Union launched CARMMA, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, and one of the pleas we made is for countries to launch CARMMA nationally," she said. "And not just launch CARMMA nationally but take ownership over the lives of women and children in their countries. Since the launch of CARMMA, 17 countries launched CARMMA. And I can tell you that we are going to make a difference."

CARMMA will need money to ensure trained health workers are available to help in complicated births. One contributing factor in the high maternal mortality rate is the number of women who give birth at home, without access to professional health care if complications arise. And in chronically poor African countries, funding is a difficult issue.

But Commissioner Gawanas says CARMMA is not about throwing money at a problem. It is about starting at the grass roots and respecting Africa's widely varying cultures.

"The difference: involve traditional leaders, involve religious leaders. Let us start a social movement for women and children in Africa," she said. "When a woman does not have access to a clinic it is not just a medical condition, it is also based in our culture, in gender issues within our societies. And I believe some of these factors do not need money. It needs a commitment by all stakeholders."

Commissioner Gawanas admits being a bit of a dreamer when it comes to tackling a challenge that has defied solution. But she says CARMMA has already notched a few victories.

In recent weeks, summit host Uganda committed $30 million for women's health, Sierra Leone decided pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five will have free access to primary and pre-natal care, and Malawi's first lady opened a foundation for safe motherhood.

"I want to see the day that the fact that you are pregnant on the African continent should not be a death warrant," she said. "That women in Africa will be placed in the same situation as women in the developed world. That children in Africa will also live in an Africa fit for children."

Gawanas has dropped from the summit agenda the planned speeches on maternal and child health. Too boring, she said.

Instead, heads of state will witness a panel discussion on CARMMA and other innovations in maternal and child health. Summit host, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will join the panel, along with Gawanas and other renowned experts. The internationally known Sudanese-born television news anchor Zeinab Badawi will act as moderator.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid