African Parliaments commit to mobilize domestic resources for MNCH – PMNCH/AFHA say good news

15 OCTOBER 2010 | MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRIYA - The Pan African Parliament (PAP) has resolved to mobilize budgetary allocations from African governments to finance the implementation of the recently adopted African Union Declaration on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa, and commitments by African governments at the just concluded UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit in New York.

The resolution for improved health financing was presented for debate by the Chair of the PAP Committee of Monetary and Financial Affairs, Hon. Musa Njigum Mbutoh. He defined it as 'a historical first by the Pan African Parliament working with national parliaments to improve domestic budgets and to put in operation an African Union Policy in record time, and a strong statement of commitment by African legislators to improve investment in the health of their constituents, notably women and children.'

Seconding the resolution, Hon. Marie Rose Nguini-Effa, Chair of the PAP Health Labour and Social Affairs Committee underlined that “the health of women and children is crucial not only in their own right, but also because they play a key role for the development of future generation of Africans. Improved investment in women and children's health, is therefore an investment in the development of Africa.”

The resolution, which looks to ensure policy and budget support for maternal, newborn and child health in countries was presented during a session dedicated to Maternal Newborn and Child Health and led by African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Honorable Bience Gawanas. In her presentation, Commissioner Gawanas congratulated the PAP for its leadership on this issue.

She said, “The zeal and commitment of parliamentarians on this continent reflects that of all African policy makers, and is encouraging. We have heard our heads of states commit strongly to Maternal and Child Health in July 2010, and with the work of PAP we can truly say that African Parliamentarians care that no woman SHOULD die giving birth.”

At the end of the debate which included a record 23 supporting interventions by various members of parliament, PAP President Hon. Idriss Ndele Moussa, called for adoption of the resolution. He urged Finance Clusters, including National Parliamentary Committees of Finance and Budget, and Finance Ministers to implement the Abuja Commitments on improved health investment, pledging that “the Pan African Parliament and its members will work with governments to ensure necessary improvements in health budgets to save African lives especially of women and children.”

The PAP resolution is based on a parliamentary budget action plan adopted on 2 October 2010 during a pre PAP Session meeting of Chairs of National Parliaments Finance / Budget Committees, with the PAP Committees of Monetary and Financial Affairs, Health and Gender on policy and budget support for MNCH.

The meeting supported by the Africa Public Health Parliamentary Network, Africa Public Health 15% Plus Campaign, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, UNFPA, UNAIDS, IPPF, GAVI, GHWA and the World Vision, builds on the July 2010 AU Heads of State Summit on MNCH held in Kampala, Uganda, and follows on the heels of the global announcement by some 20 African countries to provide $9 billion to boost women's and children's survival. The commitments were pledged at the launch of the United Nations' Secretary-General's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health during the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York on September 22.

Africa's pledge is a key part of an estimated US$40 billion committed by the global community to support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Global Strategy. The Strategy, facilitated by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, calls for increased policy, financial or service delivery commitments to improve health outcomes for women and children and speed progress towards the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Of this $40 billion, nine African countries alone accounted for more than $9 billion dollars for maternal, newborn and child health specifically, and more than $25.5 billion for health in general. These countries include Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Africa is truly committing to its women and children,” says Flavia Bustreo, M.D. Director of the Geneva-based Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. She said the substantial commitments that they have put forward demonstrated an understanding of the necessity of increased investment in health and action in support. “African countries at the July 2010 AU Summit committed to taking numerous policy, program and financial measures to improve the health of their women and children. The $9 billion dollar commitment and the resolution of parliamentarians reflect a passage from commitment to implementation. The combined African and global commitments will ensure that faster progress is made towards meeting the Health MDGs,” Dr. Bustreo said.

Rotimi Sankore, the Secretary of the Africa Public Health Parliamentary Network and Coordinator of the Africa Public Health Alliance and 15% Plus Campaign, says although there have been reductions in maternal and child mortality, an annual loss of over 4 million African children under 5 years of age, and roughly 200,000 women to maternal mortality indicates that there is still a lot to be done. “Increased health investment in terms of percentage allocation to the health sector, and more importantly actual per capita investment is crucial for the sustainable improvement of health outcomes,” he said, adding that ‘there must also be improved investment in social determinants of health such as nutrition, clean water and sanitation, and pillars of health such as health workforce.’

According to Sankore, parliamentarians play a crucial role in ensuring budget support for health and overall social development policies and it is important that as representatives of various constituencies they are involved in the developing and implementing of these policies.