AU Ministers of Health commit to ending preventable maternal, newborn & child deaths


The first joint African Union (AU) / WHO Conference of Ministers of Health, held from 14 -17 April in Angola committed to ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths. Describing this as a continental catastrophe, Ministers noted that progress had been made, but acknowledged that more remains to be done to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals; the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Development Goals for 2063. While Africa accounts for 10% of the global population, it bears a disproportionate burden of mortality and ill health, including approximately half of global maternal and child deaths.

The meeting called for more leadership and accountability of ministers of health and their governments as well as better coordination from partners. There was also a call for better regional exchange of best practices with a view to finding African solutions for African health problems.

To gain significant improvement in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child and health (RMNCH)( i.e., reduce maternal mortality to less than 50 per 100 000 live births, less than 20 child deaths per 1000 live births, and less than 10 newborn deaths per 1000 live births by 2035),Ministers at the meeting committed to:

  • scaling up investments in human resources for health, particularly in the training, deployment and retention of medical staff for quality RMNCH services;
  • removing financial barriers with a view to achieving universal access to health care and RMNCH services;
  • ensuring that the health of women and children in Africa is guaranteed through the full implementation of policies, strategies, and initiatives that promote elimination of preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths;
  • ensuring access to essential package of maternal, newborn and child health interventions, including nutrition interventions, particularly for vulnerable populations;
  • developing multisectoral coordination mechanisms to oversee investments in the critical determinants of health, in particular girl’s education, women’s empowerment, and male participation towards ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths;
  • strengthening tracking and monitoring systems alongside disease surveillance and response mechanisms, especially maternal and neonatal death audits, as well as strengthening civil registration and vital statistics; and,
  • working with civil society organizations to support communities in their efforts to facilitate access to health care services.

Following a request from Ministers, the joint AU/WHO conference of Ministers of Health has been institutionalized on an annual basis.