KAMPALA, Uganda — The 15th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government opened this morning with a call from leaders to develop the drivers of economic growth so that in turn can adequately fund other pressing needs such as maternal and child health. In his address, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda and host of this year’s summit, said that, “we cannot deal with maternal and child health in isolation without dealing with key development factors like job creation, training a critical human resource base and developing infrastructure like roads, railways and generation of sufficient electricity to support industrialization.”
In his comments about the opening ceremony, Dr. Wilfred Ochan, the Assistant Representative at the UNFPA Uganda office agrees that better developed economies are more likely to register better maternal and child health outcomes. He however added that, "spending on Maternal and child health is not a cost but an investment with a scientifically proven return on investment of three dollars per dollar spent." President Museveni said that the maternal mortality rates in Uganda have generally improved from 527 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990s to 435 deaths today, and a further reduction to 131 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015 is anticipated. He said that Uganda has 1,116 health units spread across the country. With such numbers, most families can access healthcare within a two kilometer radius from their homes. A challenge - that the Uganda government is already tackling, and where development partners could help - is equipping these health centers with required instruments, supplies and quality health care workers.
In his address to the summit, Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, underscored America’s commitment to maternal and child health through health initiatives that focus on country-led, women and girl-centered approaches. “America will continue to support strategies that ensure that women and girls are no longer disproportionately affected by violence or denied basic rights and equal opportunities to learn, to dream and to thrive," Mr Holden said.
In her remarks, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, commended the AU summit organizers for their choice of theme. “Women and children are the engine that runs economies,” she said. Dr. Migiro recognized that due to other competing health needs, achieving the millennium development goals for child and maternal health by 2015 will be difficult. She called upon development partners to keep up, and where possible, to increase their support to initiatives that support the health of mothers and children. Recognizing the effects of the global financial crisis on development partners, Dr. Migiro encouraged them with a famous quotation by Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done."