Caravan organizers who were at the AU Summit in Kampala, Uganda brought the voices from the Caravan into many spaces, through the use of the photographs, video footage, testimonies and the Petitions. They shared the stories of the Caravan with Members of Parliaments, leaders of civil society, academics, community activists, Ministers and other policy makers. Many were brought to tears on hearing of the horrors that women face when trying to give life. Hundreds more signed on to the Petition, urging Heads of States to ‘Act Now!”. The voices of the many women and men who interacted with the Caravan were loud and clear at the 15th African Union Summit.
As one woman said during the High Level Policy Dialogue on Maternal health “Our governments are not angry enough about these statistics. Do they realize these statistics are about human beings? About women? “
Several Ugandan MP’s pledged to raise the issue of the state of maternal health in Uganda on the floor of the Parliament and with their respective parliamentary sub-committees.
Other comments received after hearing and seeing the stories from the Caravan:
- There needs to be a fund for Maternal Health in the same fashion as the funds for HIV / AIDS and Malaria.
- Maternal health and sexual and reproductive health keep getting diluted by other issues, and with multiplicity of agenda we cannot move forward
- Let us publicize the success stories in decreasing maternal mortality and build on what we have achieved rather than paint ourselves as a hopeless continent
- Governments must stop moralizing issues and realize that safe abortion laws should reflect the reality on the ground. The reality is that young, poor and rural women are the most affected by unsafe abortion.
- We have to look at women’s reproductive health from birth until death, not just at child bearing age. This will cover issues of nutrition, adolescent reproductive health and sex education.
- How do we generate anger that even though there is high unmet need for contraceptives, governments don’t invest in contraceptives and rather depend on donors to fill the gap?
- Don’t agonise, organise!
- We need to organize in different ways as civil society, to tackle this issue. A network of African women leaders on reproductive health and family planning has just been launched, to raise the voices of African women and demand action from our governments using members of parliaments, civil society leaders, celebrities and young women among others.
- Citizen action is needed for example we commend the efforts of the East African Caravan which engaged in activities that should be done by governments, but citizen action will eventually shame our governments into action.
- We have to follow the money such as the HIV Aids campaigners did, we need to set up mechanisms to track the funding for maternal and reproductive health.
- We have to tell the real stories from the ground everywhere, using the images and video from the Caravan for example, until people begin to take this issue seriously.
- In order to organize differently we have to speak a language that leaders understand – what is the value of a woman’s life? What is the cost of maternal mortality and how much are we losing in GDP through this excessive loss of life?
It appears the African Heads of State and government heard these and other voices and adopted a declaration titled “Actions on Maternal, New Born and Child Health and Development in Africa by 2015” and committed to undertake the following actions:
Launch the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) in all countries and broaden it as an advocacy strategy for the promotion of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Institutionalize an annual CARMMA week in solidarity with the women and children of Africa for the next four years
Strengthen the health system to provide comprehensive, integrated, maternal, newborn and child health care services, in particular through primary health care, repositioning of family planning including reproductive health commodities security, infrastructure development and skilled human resources for health in particular to train Community Health Workers to mitigate the human resource crisis in the Health sector;
Provide stewardship as national Governments and achieve policy coherence by developing integrated health plans within the development plan with cross disease and cross sector health goals and coordinate multi-sectoral actions and multi-agency partnerships;
Provide strong support for sharing and scaling up of identified good practices that have high impact and that are cost effective; and request the AU Commission to map and disseminate such practices;
Provide sustainable financing by enhancing domestic resources mobilization including meeting the 15%Abuja target, as well as, mobilizing resources through public-private partnerships and by reducing out-of pocket payments through initiatives such as waiving of user fees for pregnant women and children under five and by instituting national health insurance;
Call on the Global Fund for Fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB to create a new window to fund maternal, Newborn and Child Health and appeal to development partners and donors for the replenishment of the Global Fund and to ensure that the new pledges are earmarked for MNCH
Institute a strong and functional monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework at country level to provide accurate, reliable and timely maternal, newborn, and child data to monitor progress against agreed indicators and targets, measure health performance and for informed decisions and actions including making maternal deaths notifiable and institute maternal death reviews.
COMMIT to annually report to this Assembly on progress and REQUEST the
African Union Commission to establish an AU Task force on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to amongst others prepare such reviews and reports.
We welcome these very specific commitments and actions by our African Heads of States.
Now we must ensure that they ACT NOW. We must ensure that these commitments are acted on at the national level, so that the numbers of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa begin to decrease, and we see real change in the maternal and reproductive health outcomes of African women and men.
For more information on what you can do to follow up on the AU Commitments, please contact email@example.com
Let us all ACT NOW!