KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan First Lady, Janet Kataha Museveni, today presided over an important session of the meeting of African First Ladies, devoted to the theme of the debate that Heads of State had just concluded on Promoting Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa.
The move was seen as a strategic success and welcome to governments and organizations promoting maternal and child health in Africa, because African First Ladies have traditionally focused their work on HIV and AIDS through their umbrella organization: Organization for African First Ladies Against AIDS (OAFLA).
Ms. Thoraya Obaid, UNFPA’s Executive Director and one of the keynote speakers at the event, said it has been a mistake to think of maternal and child health matters as a standalone issue. “One thing we know is that women want to have their total health care needs met in one place. A one-stop-centre, where they can get family planning: health care before, during and after childbirth; nutrition advice; and services for HIV and AIDS. This is especially important in low-income countries, where health facilities and health workers are in short supply,” she said.
“Maternal and child health is not just a health issue, it concerns education, and especially the education of the girl child. An educated girl is much more likely to become a better mother,” she stressed. She expressed delight at seeing the First Ladies of Africa extend their support to this important aspect of development and explained that, because of the close links of maternal and child health to HIV, a number of UN agencies had launched a joint initiative to harness their resources so as to better 'deliver as one'.
The Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, Bience Gawanas, mentioned the enthusiasm with which Heads of State and Government had debated maternal and child health for nearly two days. She was happy with the conclusions of the meeting, notably, the decision by the Executive Council of the African Union to extend the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Africa from 2010 to 2015.
She announced that another decision had been taken by Heads of State of the African Union to set aside a week each year for social mobilization on the implementation of Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and to put in place a framework for countries to share and scale up good practices in maternal and child health management.
Spotlight on CARMMA
In an address to the final session of the conference, Bunmi Makinwa shed light on CARMMA, and said that it was a joint initiative of the African Union Commission and UNFPA to promote intensified implementation of the Maputo Plan.
Explaining CARMMA’s underlying principle, Mr. Makinwa said that, although the principal focus of CARMMA was maternal death, it was also about child mortality because of the impact of maternal death on children and families. “CARMMA derives its significance and authority from previous commitments made by African Heads of State on maternal health and the achievement of health-related MDGs such the AU Vision, Mission and Strategic Framework (2004-2007 and beyond) which put health high on the continent’s agenda; the 2005 Continental Policy Framework on the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Africa and most recently, the Maputo Plan of Action (2006) for its implementation,” he said.
He applauded the enthusiasm with which African countries had embraced the campaign since its initial launch just a year ago. Today, more than 20 African countries have launched it.
Bunmi reiterated UNFPA’s commitment to work with the AUC and other partners to move CARMMA activities beyond launching ceremonies to actual advocacy work in local communities, underscoring the central role First Ladies could play in this process.
The meeting concluded with a decision to “address safe motherhood by raising awareness which contribute health outcomes such as harmful traditional practices, early marriages, and gender based violence.”
Aloysius E. Fomenky
Communications Consultant, UNFPA
Tel: + 256753343011