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Maternal and Reproductive Health Issues Take Center Stage in Africa

By Women Deliver
By Women Deliver

3/27/2012 8:02:26 PM -

Leaders from 27 African countries gather at 'African Regional Consultation on Achieving Millennium Development Goal 5' to make the health of girls and women a regional priority

Kampala, Uganda – On 27-28 March, policymakers, advocates and researchers from across sub-Saharan Africa are gathering in Kampala, Uganda, to reaffirm national and regional commitments to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 – reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to reproductive health.

At the regional consultation, convened by Partners in Population and Development and global advocacy organization Women Deliver, leading experts will 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 will include high-level government representatives from across Africa, such as Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni; Ugandan Minister of Health Hon. Dr. Christine Ondoa; Ghanaian Member of Parliament and Ranking Member of the Health Committee Hon. Dr. Richard W. Anane; and Nigerian Parliamentary Advocates for Population and Development CEO Hon. Saudatu Sani. Nearly 30 African parliamentarians will be in attendance.

“I am proud to join this diverse group of stakeholders in Kampala to collaborate around a common goal: improving the lives of Africa's girls and women,” said Hon. Saudatu Sani. “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% across the region, but 39% of pregnancies are still unintended, and only 17% of married women of reproductive age use modern contraception. On 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.

“By participating in this important meeting, Africa's leaders are decisively demonstrating their commitment to improving the lives of Africa's girls and women,” said Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Africa Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development. “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.”

Of the eight MDGs, progress toward MDG 5 has been lagging furthest behind. Conference participants will share best practices from across the region and determine how to continue the momentum on girls' and women's health beyond 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture in global efforts to improve maternal and reproductive health,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “We have seen time and time again that prioritizing 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 deliver on the promises we've made.”

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 communications to amplify maternal, sexual and reproductive health messaging at the local, national and regional levels.

“It is crucial that we engage young people in discussions about reproductive health and family planning early,” said Ghanaian physician and women's health advocate Dr. Fred Sai, who spoke at the youth pre-conference. “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 Africa Regional Consultation is the first of four regional meetings hosted by Women Deliver and partner organizations in 2012, with additional events to follow in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East and North Africa. The conversations at these consultations are also intended to help shape the agenda for Women Deliver 2013, Women Deliver's 3rd Global Conference, which will take place 28-30 May 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.