2012 Annual Women Parliamentarians Conference

African Parliamentarians meet to improve MNCH

4-5 OCTOBER 2012 | MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRICA - Hundreds of African women decision-makers gathered at the Pan-African Parliament’s (PAP) Annual Women Parliamentarians Conference, held under the theme “The Role of Parliamentarians in Promoting Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa”.

At the official opening of the Conference, Hon. Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi, President of the PAP pointed out that nearly twelve thousand children die every minute from easily preventable or treatable conditions. “A woman in Africa has 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth and 74% of all child deaths are attributable to conditions such as neonatal causes or malnutrition”, he said.

Hon Amadi said that Africa was the second fastest moving region next to Asia, economically and in the health sector. “Africa has witnessed a 41% reduction of maternal deaths over the last ten years. However, only 2 countries out the 54 are on track for achieving the MDG 5, while 4 countries are on track for achieving MDG 4”, he said. Against this background nearly 165,000 women die annually in Africa due to pregnancy and pregnancy related causes, he added.

He noted that for there to be meaningful change in this challenge, there has to be an adoption of parliamentary policies and budget action plans that should focus on outlining key areas of intervention at various levels. “it is only when parliamentarians take their place to represent, legislate, oversee and advocate on these issues can women and children enjoy good health as a basic right”, he added.

He underlined his hope that the conference will afford ample opportunity to collaborate in the development of tangible parliamentary interventions towards the improvement on the health of women and children, and by extension, the health and wealth of the African people.

On his part, the Regional Director of UNFPA, Mr Bunmi Makinwa, extensive use of family planning methods can reduce maternal mortality by 33% and good midwifery services can reduce 75% of maternal mortality. “Family planning ensures that women who do not want to fall pregnant can access materials and services to assist them with this. If this happens it means that people who fall pregnant are women who want to be pregnant. It means therefore, abortion that is induced will be reduced. In Africa more than 40% of maternal mortality comes from abortion. If we reduce abortion we reduce maternal mortality”.

He indicated that political commitments and increased efforts in Africa, particularly the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), which is a partnership between the African Union (AU) and UNFPA have contributed to the progress made in the Continent.

Mr Makinwa lauded an unprecedented move by the Ugandan Parliament, which refused to approve the 2012-2013 Budget unless there was additional money allocated to health. They succeeded and they were awarded 35% of their demand. The money went towards recruiting health workers and increased salaries for medical doctors.

The conference concluded by adopting a number of recommendations which are to be tabled before the house during the First Ordinary Session of Third Parliament which will be held during 8th to 19th of October 2012.

The meeting recommended an improvement in the policy and investment in the health sector and tackling issues, such as lack of access to clean water, improved nutrition, and improved education for the human resources of the health sector. It also concluded that since maternal deaths are highest after the first 24 hours of giving birth, health policies and investments in quality health care should be addressed through scaling-up of access and up-taking of essential commodities and medicines. The parliamentarians agreed to commit to promoting accountability and monitoring the use of the budgets set aside to improve maternal and child health.

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