International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa

1-3 AUGUST 2013 | JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

Overview

African leaders recommit to improving women’s and children’s health, contributing to a RMNCH action plan

The African Union Commission announced the development of a reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) action plan during the inaugural International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa. The plan, which highlights the recommendations emerging from the conference on steps needed to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates on the continent, focuses on the following areas:

  • Advocacy and evidence informed policy
  • Leadership, Accountability and Governance
  • Health Care financing
  • Human Resources
  • Strategic Information
  • Nutrition
  • Service Delivery
  • Cross Cutting Issues

Together with the Government of South Africa, the AUC convened this three-day conference under the theme, “A Call to Action,” bringing together more than 500 delegates, including 27 African ministers of health, parliamentarians, United Nations agencies, and members of civil society.

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health contributed to the evidence base and discussions for this landmark event by hosting various sessions and working with the following partners to contribute to a series of AUC policy briefs: Afri-Dev; Countdown to 2015; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Evidence 4 Action; Family Care International; Global Health Insights; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the University College London Institute for Global Health; the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the US Agency for International Development (USAID); White Ribbon Alliance; and the World Health Organization (WHO).

South African President Jacob Zuma delivers opening remarks during the African Union's inaugural International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa.

We have no choice: African Union urges action on maternal and child health

During the opening day of the conference, leaders called for a renewed focus on implementing existing national and regional policy frameworks, particularly toward the strengthening of health systems, while ensuring that women’s and children’s rights are protected and adopting a cross-sectoral approach to improving health.

“As leaders, it is in our power to do everything to ensure that no mother dies whilst giving life. Equally, it is in our power to ensure that no child dies from an avoidable cause,” said keynote speaker, the President of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma. “We need to learn from each other and develop an action plan to address maternal and child health challenges on this continent.”

Despite the success in reducing maternal and child mortality in Africa since 1990 by 41% and 33%, respectively, still more than 57% of maternal deaths occur in the continent. Although the global under-five mortality rate has fallen by a third since 1990, the highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in Africa, where one child in eight dies before age five—nearly 20 times the average of one in 167 for developed regions.

“When we think about Africa’s development, we must think of developing Africa’s human capital; Africa’s most important resource,” said AUC Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “There can be no ‘African Renaissance’ if thousands of African women die every year giving birth; and when our youngest and most vulnerable children are not able to grow up and reach their full potential.”

Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged action towards the strengthening of health systems, advocating for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of children, and the implementation of existing national and regional policy frameworks.

She encouraged greater multi-sectorial collaboration in a more comprehensive approach at both national and regional levels.

“The outcomes of this conference should be to affirm a strong action plan: one that galvanizes international, continental, international, national, communities and the private sector,” she said. “To spend resources to preserve life, our most valuable resource, is not an expense; it is an investment. We can do it, we must do it; we have no choice.”

Background

The African Union (AU) has been a key proponent for accelerating and promoting efforts to improve women’s and children’s health in Africa. The inaugural International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa comes on the heels of the organization’s “Abuja +12” summit from 12-16 July, where African leaders agreed to step up efforts to strengthen health systems, as well as a recent recommitment to women’s and children’s health during an event on the AU’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) during the AU heads of state and government summit in January.

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