African Union Summit on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development


PMNCH Director's Comment

Dr Flavia Bustreo

Africa cares: The African Union Heads of States commit to women and children health

26 JULY 2010 | KAMPALA -- This week’s declaration at the close of the African Union Summit on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development was a decisive move forward for the health of women and children.

Under the leadership of the African Union chairperson, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, African leaders discussed the burden of maternal, newborn and child mortality on the continent and its impact on growth and economic development. They committed to the following urgent actions:

  • 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;
  • Appeal to the Global Fund for Fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis to create a new window for maternal, newborn and child health and for the replenishment of the Global Fund and to ensure that the new pledges are earmarked for maternal, newborn and child health;
  • 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, infant and child health, involving all key stakeholders such as women and young people, parliamentarians, community and religious leaders, the media and the private sector and institutionalizing an annual CARMMA week in solidarity with the women and children of Africa for the next four years.

Notably, African Union leaders committed to greater accountability for policy and financing decisions, pledging to report annually to the Assembly on maternal, newborn and child health and to develop an African Union Taskforce for maternal, newborn and child health.

This week’s agreement in Kampala represents a critical step forward in addressing an issue that affects Africa more than any other region in the world. Though Africa accounts for just 11% of the world's population, it suffers more than half of the world's maternal and child deaths. The AU’s actions, if fully implemented, will contribute to a notable improvement of the health status of women and children on the continent. Even so, the AU recognizes the time for action is short. With only five years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, there is little time to waste in ensuring full implementation of these important commitments.

This week’s Kampala declaration will form a critical part of the commitments to be highlighted by the UN Secretary-General’s Joint Action Plan for Women’s and Children's Health, to be launched at the MDG Summit on 22 September. Given the leadership shown by Sierra Leone and Liberia at last year’s UN General Assembly, when pledging to remove health user fees for pregnant women and children, the world now waits for more African countries to take their rightful turn on stage at this year’s gathering in New York.

As one of its key objectives, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health will track the commitments made by the African leaders and all others who pledge to reduce the unnecessary deaths of women and children in this important year.

This week, Africa showed the world that it intends to stand by and care for its women and children. The Partnership will stand by Africa at this historic moment of ambition and commitment.