Maternal healthcare: It is time the world delivered on women and girlsBy JOTHAM MUSINGUZI | Tuesday, March 27 2012 at 11:11
On March 8, the world celebrated the International Women’s Day, which serves as a clarion call to honour girls’ and women’s contributions to their families, communities and nations.
As our global population swells to over seven billion, we must heed this call by working to ensure every girl and woman lives a long, healthy and happy life.
Here in Africa, we are doing just that. On Tuesday and Wednesday, policymakers, researchers and advocates from across the continent — including several Kenyan MPs — are gathering in Kampala for a regional consultation on maternal and reproductive health.
At this meeting convened by Partners in Population and Development and the global advocacy organisation, Women Deliver, experts will discuss lessons learned, best practices and challenges for improving the health and wellbeing of girls and women.
In Africa, far too many women die while giving life. Africa has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 48 per cent of all global maternal deaths occurring in this region.
A woman in Kenya has a one in 38 lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, and this risk is even higher in other African countries. Hundreds of thousands more women are injured while giving birth.
In rural areas, the outlook for women and girls is often bleaker. Rural girls and women are less likely to receive an education, own property or be financially independent, despite the contributions they make to our societies and economies.
They are also less likely to receive the health services they need such as family planning or skilled care before, during or after birth.
A recent study found that 640 rural women die during pregnancy and childbirth per every 100,000 live births, as compared to 447 urban women.
Many women in rural areas do not have the financial resources and transportation needed to travel to far-off health facilities, and if they do make it to a facility, many find medical charges unaffordable.
Many of Africa’s maternal deaths could be prevented with increased access to family planning services. Unfortunately, many women do not have this access.
In Kenya, for example, 27 per cent of rural women want, but do not get, family planning services and, overall, only 39 per cent of all married women report using modern contraceptives regularly.
If we provide girls, women and their partners with family planning information and services, we can empower them to decide the number, timing and spacing of their children.
Despite the many challenges, there is some good news. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated one-third fewer women worldwide are dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth now than in 1990.
In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, maternal mortality has declined by 26 per cent over the past two decades.
We have also seen greater political commitment towards reducing maternal deaths. In recent years, Kenya has introduced a Maternal and Newborn Health Roadmap and abolished user-fees in all public maternity hospitals and clinics to accelerate progress on women’s and children’s health.
The Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality, launched in 2009 with more than 30 African countries’ support, sets clear pathways to reach measurable goals around maternal health.
The Office of the US secretary-general’s Every Woman Every Child campaign and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health are two global initiatives that have each convened government, civil society and corporate leaders to improve the lives of women and children.
The recent decline in maternal deaths in Africa and increase in political will are welcome signs that real and lasting progress can — and will — be a reality.
The Kampala consultation will provide Africa’s leaders with an unprecedented opportunity to work together to build on past successes and pave a way forward for improving the lives of girls and women in Kenya.
The time is now to deliver for girls and women. Let’s join together to celebrate them every day by making their health a top global priority.
Dr Musinguzi is the regional director of the Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda.
- Four killed at TB Joshua church stampede
- It's a tough life for Sierra Leone's gays
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Big Brother Africa star arrested on fraud charges
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Succession: Suddenly, Uganda is up for grabs
- Botswana party makes U-turn on Malema's visit
- Uganda's 'Daily Monitor' and sister radio stations shut
- Iranians to pay $1m for illegal fishing in Somalia
Beyond the ballot