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African leaders review women’s health

African leaders review women’s health

Leaders gathered to renew the Maputo Plan of Action on maternal health at the 15th African Union Summit this past Sunday afternoon in Kampala. Created by African ministers and heads of state in 2006, the Maputo Plan is one of the world’s most progressive frameworks for sexual and reproductive health and rights policy.

“I commend the intrepid leaders that developed and implemented this innovative plan to transform the lives of Africa’s women,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “The Maputo Plan of Action encompasses the innovation, vision, and commitment that African leaders have on sexual, reproductive and maternal health. It is a road map to prosperity and stability for Africa.”

The plan expires this year, but once renewed through 2015, it will outline a critical path for African countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It emphasizes strategies for achieving MDGs 4 and 5, which aim to reduce maternal and infant mortality by 2015, but its programs and targets will be key to achieving all eight development goals.

The theme of this year’s African Union Summit is “maternal, infant, and child health and development in Africa.” As heads of state from nearly every African country convene to address the most important issues facing the continent, renewal of the Maputo Plan will be central to reinforcing Africa’s leadership on maternal health. This comes at a time when millions of women in Africa still face the burdens of poverty, sexual violence, and unplanned pregnancies. The majority of the world’s maternal deaths still occur in that continent.

The African Union Summit occurs during unprecedented political momentum around women’s health. This year, leaders from across the globe have pledged to invest billions of dollars in the issue. At the Women Deliver conference in June in Washington, D.C., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give $1.5 billion to women’s health initiatives over the next five years. Shortly after, at the G8 Summit in Canada, where maternal health was a major focus, world leaders announced another $5 billion in funding for the issue.

“When Africa created the Maputo Plan, its leaders proved to the world that they were ready to make real progress, not just promises,” said Dr. Jotham Musinguzi. “Now, by renewing it, we have a chance to put the world’s recent funding commitments in maternal health to good use, and make a major difference in the lives of Africa’s women and their families.”

The Maputo Plan reinforces the many national and regional movements already underway to help Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals. For example, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) was launched by eight countries last year and by ten more countries this year. Initiatives like these are keeping maternal health at the top of policy makers’ agendas.

The Maputo Plan prioritizes sexual and reproductive healthcare through approaches such as increasing access to family planning resources, scaling-up resources for the prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, reducing gender-based violence, and expanding access to health education. As such, it is essential for achieving the continent’s maternal health goals. In turn, this will promote progress on development goals.

Women Deliver is a global advocacy organization bringing together voices from around the world to call for action against maternal death. Launched at a groundbreaking conference in 2007, Women Deliver works globally to generate political commitment and financial investment for fulfilling Millennium Development Goal #5 to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health. The initiative builds on commitments, partnerships, and networks mobilized at the conference, fighting to end the deluge of preventable deaths that kill between 350,000 – 500,000 girls and women from pregnancy-related causes every year. A Woman Deliver’s message is that maternal health is both a human right and a practical necessity for sustainable development.

By Fredica Momoh

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