Health News of Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Source: GNA

African health experts meet to discuss achieving MDG 5

Policymakers, advocates and researchers across Sub-Saharan Africa are meeting in Kampala, Uganda, to reaffirm national and regional commitments to achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, to ensure that the health of girls and women became a regional priority.

The two-day regional consultation meeting is convened by partners in population and development, a global advocacy organisation 'Women Deliver'.

A statement signed by Women Deliver, copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, said leading experts from 27 African countries would discuss lessons learned in maternal, sexual and reproductive health, and identify barriers to meeting the needs of girls and women in the lead-up to the 2015 MDG target date and beyond.

Speakers at the conference would include high-level government representatives across Africa, such as Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni; Ugandan Minister of Health, Dr Christine Ondoa; Ghanaian Member of Parliament and Ranking Member of Health Committee, Dr Richard Winifred Anane; and Nigerian Parliamentary Advocates for Population and Development, Mr Saudatu Sani.

The statement noted that, of the eight MDGs, progress towards MDGs which talks about reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to reproductive health had been lagging furthest behind.

Conference participants will thus, share best practices across the region and determine how to continue the momentum on girls’ and women’s health beyond 2015.

Ms Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver, said: “We are at a critical juncture in global efforts to improve maternal and reproductive health. We have seen time and time again that prioritising girls and women is a good investment – and a smart one. Now, more than ever, we need the political will and resources required to achieve the goals we’ve set and to deliver on the promises we’ve made.”

Professor Fred T. Sai, a Ghanaian physician, and women’s health advocate, who spoke at the youth pre-conference, said it was crucial that young people were engaged in discussions on reproductive health and family planning early.

He said: “Youth are one of the world’s greatest resources, and we must ensure that they are empowered with the tools and the knowledge they need to lead long, healthy and productive lives.”

The regional consultation was preceded by a youth pre-conference, which aimed to teach 21 young people from 11 countries how to most effectively use advocacy and communication to amplify maternal, sexual and reproductive health messaging at the local, national and regional levels.

Dr Jotham Musinguzi, Africa Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development, explained that by participating in this important meeting, African leaders were decisively demonstrating their commitment to improving the lives of Africa’s girls and women.

“On this continent and around the world, girls and women play a critical role in their families, communities and nations, and we owe it to them to do all we can to protect their health and well being,” he said.

Mr Sani, Nigerian Parliamentary Advocates for Population and Development, said: “Every country represented here today, has unique experiences to share and, working together, we can develop innovative, cross-cutting solutions to address the most pressing challenges facing girls and women across Africa.”

In recent years, Sub-Saharan Africa has made progress toward improving maternal, sexual and reproductive health; however, significant challenges still remain.

Since 1990, maternal mortality has decreased by 26 per cent across the region, but 39 per cent of pregnancies are still unintended, and only 17 per cent of married women of reproductive age use modern contraception.

On the average, a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 31 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, and 570 women die each day of pregnancy-related causes.**