UN Women Joins the AU Commission in commemorating the Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA)
Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015
Nairobi, Kenya: The Africa Union Commission in collaboration with the Republic of Kenya, Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), UNFPA and UN Women held an annual celebration to commemorate the Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). The high level event that showcased and celebrated the success achieved in improving maternal and child health across the African continent was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya from 18th -19th November 2015.
CARMMA is a major initiative of the African Union Commission aimed at promoting and advocating for renewed and intensified implementation of the Maputo Plan of Action for Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality in the Africa Region. The Campaign that was launched in May 2009 under the theme: “Africa Cares: No Woman should Die while Giving Life” seeks to accelerate the availability and use of universally accessible quality health services including those related to sexual and reproductive health, that are critical to the reduction of maternal and child mortality.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Funmi Balogun, Deputy Country Representative UN Women Ethiopia, noted that the efforts to address poor maternal health outcomes have traditionally focused on strengthening service delivery, or the supply side; and not enough focus on the demand side. She advised that there is need to ensure an integrated approach to not just reduction of maternal deaths but a focus on sexuality and one that includes every sector rather than just ministries of health.
“Within the UN, and particularly at UN Women and with women working on issues of sexuality and maternal health, we already know and have known for some time that a woman’s status and gender norms within her community correlate with her health risk. Gender inequality, manifested in disproportionately low access to financial resources, engagement in household decision making and individual autonomy for women are a few examples of circumstances that reduce women’s likelihood of seeking family planning, antenatal care and delivery assistance at health facilities,” said Ms. Balogun.
Ms. Balogun stressed on UN Women’s role in providing access to economic empowerment for women, ensuring their access to education and stated that in line with the SDG’s, primary education is too basic for women and that there should be an integrated approach in medical and social causes for women from the period before she gets pregnant and after.
The first day was characterized by sharing of experiences, best practices, lessons, opportunities and plans to end preventable child and maternal deaths by various countries. These efforts were all geared towards celebrating the success so far, strengthen and sustain momentum towards ending preventable maternal and child deaths in Africa by 2030.
The second day was graced by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, who was recognized due to her leading role in championing for maternal health issues. She officially launched two reports; 2014 Status Report on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the Gender Mainstreaming Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) Systems in Africa Report that were commissioned by the AUC in collaboration UN Women.
In her keynote address, the First lady stated that the launch of CARMMA in Kenya marked the beginning of an effort to address the unacceptably high maternal and child morbidity and mortality. She also urged the countries that have not launched CARMMA to take up this initiative to enable the continent move forward together.
“Investing in women’s and children’s health is vital for sustainable economic and social development. Healthy women and children contribute to healthy economies, political stability and shared prosperity.” Mrs. Kenyatta also pointed out that “This (reduction of deaths) is good news for mothers and children in Africa. But it is not enough. We are not yet there. More needs to be done. We must, therefore, prioritize maternal and newborn survival and mobilize resources at all levels.”
Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta pointed out that she initiated the Beyond Zero campaign to support the government of Kenya in accelerating attainment of all maternal and child targets including HIV prevention, treatment and care goals after being inspired by the realization that maternal and children’s deaths are largely preventable.
The event was also graced by Mr. James Macharia, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Health in Kenya, H. E Erustus J.O Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Amb. Susan Page, US Mission to the African Union, and Dr. Julitta Onabanjo UNFPA Regional Director among others.
On his part, Mr. James Macharia, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of health in Kenya, stated that there has been great improvement in the health sector since the launch of CARMMA, and that they are working towards strengthening the health systems, expanding the workforce, nutrition and other factors. He also noted that these themes are intertwined with the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “CARMMA is a challenge in all households that required leadership and advocacy,” he said. He concluded by appreciating AUC, UNFPA and UN Women’s commitment towards this course and called upon all partners to increase their support and assistance towards the same. He also pointed out that there is an establishment of a surveillance system to monitor the rate of maternal deaths.
Ambassador Susan Page, US Mission to the African Union, commended the work that African Union has done through CARMMA in mobilizing political goodwill in support of maternal health and child survival on the continent. She stated that Africa is moving to the right direction and gave a re-assurance of the US Government’s commitments to partnering with the AU to realize the continents development aspirations as contained in the Agenda 2063 framework.
Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa advised that there is need to address African adolescents and their sexuality, and provide education to enable them to make decisions. She also pointed out that with the theme Moving CARMMA to the next level: mobilizing to end preventable maternal and Child Deaths in Africa by 2030, there should be collection of data in a sustainable and continuous manner. Ms. Onabanjo reiterated her organizations’ commitments to working with the AU and key partners to ensure every woman and young person has access to the sexual and reproductive health services they require, upholding that no woman should die giving life and that all young people are able to reach their full potential.
In conclusion, the African Union Commission called for increased partnership, commitment, and the involvement of a variety of stakeholders to support the CARMMA initiative.
Since the inception of CARMMA, 45 African Union Member States have launched and successfully domesticated the campaign with others on track to do so. The 45 countries have also implemented activities aimed at improving political commitment and leadership. For instance, 20% have increased annual government expenditure on health, with a special emphasis on directing more resources to Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues.