Health News of Friday, 4 April 2014

Source: GNA

Maternal mortality, index for development - Prof Sai

Maternal mortality must be an index for development of all countries to help improve the health of women and young girls, Professor Fred T. Sai, a renowned Reproductive Health Expert said on Wednesday.

He said although women's health, maternal and infant mortality had improved after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 20 years ago, there is much more to be done to meet the target of the Millennium Development Goal 5 by 2015 and beyond.

Prof Sai said this in Accra when he met representatives of civil society organisations across Africa.

Participants were in Ghana for a consultative meeting to define civil society and partners strategy on taking the ICPD forward during the 47th Commission on Population and Development and the United Nations General Assembly Special Session scheduled to take place in New York from April 7 to 11.

The interaction dubbed: Conversation with Prof Fred Sai on ICPD, was organised and facilitated by UNFPA to enable Prof. Sai share his thoughts with participants after he had chaired the historic1994 ICPD in Cairo, Egypt.

Prof. Sai expressed regret that, despite the global improvement, Africa has not performed well.

Ghana's maternal mortality has been reduced from 500 per 100,000 live births to 350 per 100,000 live births. It will not be able to reach the reduction of 250 by 2015, he added.

He said he was not happy that Ghana, after all these years and efforts made after ICPD, still has more than 30 per cent family planning unmet needs and called for the need to hasten efforts in addressing family planning needs of women.

He noted that advances that had been made in maternal and child health and family planning in the past two decades had been considerable, and yet 800 women died daily from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth in 2010, and an estimated 8.7 million young women aged 15 to 24 in developing countries resorted to unsafe abortions in 2008.

Prof Sai, who was also the Presidential Advisor on Population, Reproductive Health and HIV and AIDS Issues under President John Agyekum Kufuor, noted that there is a need for Africa to turn the tide around.

This, he explained, could be done if government heads exhibits strong political will in addressing family planning issues and placing women and childrens health at top priority.

Prof. Sai explained that the ICPD Beyond 2014 Review is an opportunity to influence the future of global population and development policy at national, regional and global levels.

The review will identify progress and achievements towards the goals set out in the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, when 179 governments committed to a 20- year Programme of Action to deliver human rights based development.

Evidence of what has worked and where challenges remain will be collected from governments, civil society organisations and partners using the ICPD Global Survey, civil society consultations and a series of thematic conferences, he said.

Ms. Dennia Gayle, Deputy UNFPA Country Representative, commended Prof Sai for his devotion and dedication in promoting women's reproductive health and that of young girls, as well as family planning and population issues.

She said the 1994 ICPD was a milestone in the history of population and development, as well as in the history of women's rights after the world had agreed that population was not just about counting people, but about making sure that every person counts.

She explained that 20 years after the consensus by countries to deliver human rights-based development, it had become necessary to review the ICPD programme of work to influence the future of global population and development policy at national, regional and global levels.

The achievements over the ensuing 20 years have been remarkable, including gains in women's equality, population health and life expectancy, educational attainment, and human rights protection systems, with an estimated one billion people moving out of extreme poverty, he said.