African leaders and health experts meet today at the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala amid reports that maternal and child health indicators are still poor.
The summit with a theme on maternal and child health, will seek ways to slash maternal and infant deaths across the African continent.
In 2000, African governments agreed to reduce by two-thirds the number of mothers and children who die annually from pregnancy-related complications and preventable childhood illnesses.
Ten years later, little has been achieved on that noble commitment, as statistics show an African woman’s risk of dying in child birth is still one in 11 compared to a 1 in 7,300 risk among women in developed countries.
Most women usually die from bleeding, infection, obstructed labour and preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
“If you are to look at the statistics across Africa, we are far from achieving the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health,” says Dr Jotham Musinguzi, the African regional director for Partners in Population and Development (PPD).
In Uganda maternal and child mortality rates remain unacceptably high at 435 per 100,000 live births and 137 deaths for every 1,000 births, respectively, since 2000 when MDGs were set.
Dr Musinguzi says sub Saharan African countries are particularly fairing badly in trying to reduce pregnancy related deaths compared to their Asian counterparts.
“Maternal mortality is not purely a health issue. If we want to get results, we need to have well functioning facilities in place with health workers, there must be good roads in order to transport women in case of emergencies and generally, there should be real investment in the health sector,” he says.
The deputy representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Uganda, Dr Hassan Mohtashami, says: “We can save mothers from dying because of pregnancy by making family planning services available, ensuring women are attended to by skilled personnel and have emergency care when birth complications arise.”