Sub-Saharan Africa

The report from all three Regional Consultations (sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Asia) is available here.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa Regional Consultation on Achieving MDG 5: Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned took place on March 27-28 in Kampala, Uganda with coordinating partner Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office. The First Lady of Uganda, Honorable Janet K. Museveni, opened the consultation and called for “zero tolerance to maternal deaths.” She was followed by Honorable Dr. Christine Ondoa, Minister of Health of Uganda. The consultation, which was the first in the series hosted by Women Deliver, convened more than 200 policymakers, advocates and researchers from across sub-Saharan Africa to reaffirm national and regional commitments to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 – reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to reproductive health.

Participants of the meeting discussed strategies to strengthen political and financial commitment to women’s reproductive health throughout the region, with an emphasis on improving maternal health in a post-2015 development framework. View the complete agenda here for a full list of speakers and topics. In both working group sessions and plenaries, the following key recommendations were discussed by participants and experts:

1.    PRIORITIZE MATERNAL HEALTH: Maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased by 26% since 1990. However, progress at this rate is not sufficient to reach the MDG target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. Countries must ensure zero tolerance for maternal death. This involves developing mother-friendly, high quality health care that respects women’s reproductive, sexual and human rights; strengthening existing health systems; and ensuring that health workers are adequately trained and supported in their essential work.

2.    STRIVE FOR INTEGRATION: Women often lack the time and resources to visit multiple service providers for their health needs. “One-stop shops” are proven to save time and money, and also increase the quality of care. Countries should work to integrate women’s health services, including maternal health, reproductive health, HIV prevention and treatment, and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.

3.    PROMOTE ACCESS TO FAMILY PLANNING: 39% of pregnancies in the region are unintended, yet only 17% of married women have access to modern contraception. Family planning is a proven, life-saving solution that has the potential to decrease unwanted pregnancies by more than two-thirds, and avert 70% of maternal deaths. Access to affordable, stigma-free family planning information and services should be made available to all.

4.    TAKE A RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH: Reproductive health and rights must be framed not as women’s issues, but human issues. All citizens have the right to life-saving, affordable care, and to decide the time and spacing of their families. Countries must work to promote and affirm this right.

5.    ENSURE YOUTH ENGAGEMENT: Youth under 30 constitute approximately 70% of the region’s population, and adolescent girls have the highest rate of unmet need for modern contraception. Young people must be fully engaged in the processes and programs which affect them. Health services should ensure youth-accessibility, and that young people are not discriminated against when they attempt to access care.

6.    FORM PARTNERSHIPS: Progress cannot happen in isolation. Forming multi-sectoral partnerships is key to tackling maternal deaths holistically. This should involve building public-private partnerships, encouraging civil society participation, and engaging local and regional governments.

7.    ENSURE FUNDING: Work towards improving maternal health, access to family planning and reproductive health throughout the region depends on adequate and sustainable funding. Countries must ensure funding at all levels (local, national and regional) for these essential services, and should strive for transparency and accountability.

Speaker Presentations:

The report from all three Regional Consultations (sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Asia) is available here.

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International Women's Day 2012