All we want is to celebrate the birth of our children

Monday July 26 2010

By Christine Abia-Bako

Chairman of the African Union, Going by the disturbing statistics of infant and maternal mortality on the African continent, we have no choice but to invest in our mothers and children. This is the key meaning of a union, unity to save our mothers, the soul of our economies and our children, Africa’s posterity.

Central African Republic, Malawi and Mozambique have the highest maternal mortality in the world and are ranked first with 1,100 mothers dying out of 100,000. Zimbabwe loses 700 mothers, Zambia 650, Kenya 590, and your host country, Uganda, 415, out of every 100,000 live births, (Nation Master, facts and statistics). The only country with a little smile is Lybia with 75; this too is unacceptable, for, life is priceless!

Mr Chairman, how many of the African governments are implementing the Abuja Protocol of committing 15 per cent to health? Unless they renew these vows in action, fighting poverty on the continent will be a dream too distant to attain. Most agricultural work force on the continent are women, as a result of the disturbing statistics above, lost production is costing our continent dearly.

Production time that African women lose in hospitals while attending to sick children and mourning is too much. All this time can be saved and put to meaningful production if governments do the most descent things, listen to the cries of your citizens in all your respective peer review country self assessment reports, invest in health, education, and agriculture as a matter of urgency. Savings from the state-of-the-art presidential jets, excessive State House budgets, and invisible heavy expenditure in patronage would save the African mother and her children!

Mr Chairman, if we are a peaceful union, why should our defence and security budgets exceed that of the above listed priorities of the African citizenry? The urgency to invest in the above sectors in not negotiable. No country attains meaningful levels of poverty reduction without investing in the health of its people. A healthy, well-fed and educated population is the single most important asset any economy can have!

Africa’s disease burden is unacceptable; its food and nutrition insecurity levels are embarrassing! But, all these will not change if we don’t address the governance questions such as freedom from corruption, election fraud and unnecessary quest for power. It will not help Africa if sitting presidents don’t constitutionally pave way and want to redefine democracy as ‘a government of the person ‘for the people’ through his or her family lineage!’

All we are asking for, Mr Chairman, is to celebrate the birth of an African child and African rituals of child naming. Mothers of Africa are hoping that by the end of this summit, we will enjoy breastfeeding our babies knowing they will survive the first five joyful years of their lives. We are also hopeful that your resolutions will wipe our tears of burying two people in one, a mother unable to deliver! It will be good if each of you, our presidents, reflected on the patient-doctor and or nurse ratios in your respective countries!

Finally, Mr Chairman, I am requesting you to visit Mulago, Uganda’s national referral hospital’s maternity wards. This will give you a clear picture of what the continent’s mothers are crying for, the urgent need to save them and their children. Thank you.

Ms Abia-Bako is the Woman MP, Arua District