GENEVA — A new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)finds millions of adolescent girls suffer serious long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy. Globally, the U.N. agency estimates 7.3 million girls under 18-years-old give birth, including two million girls younger than 14.
Giving birth to a baby should be a happy moment in the life of a woman. But, for millions of adolescents around the world, early pregnancy and childbirth results in serious health problems, social exclusion and even death.
In developing countries, 20,000 girls under 18 give birth every day, the report says. It estimates some 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Among those who survive, many will develop an obstetric fistula. This is a hole in the birth canal, which leaves the girl leaking urine constantly.
The director of the UNFPA office in Geneva, Alanna Armitage, says adolescent girls are at increased risk of child marriage and sexual coercion. Maternal death among girls under the age of 15 from low- and middle-income countries is twice that of older females,” says Armitage.
“Our report shows that nine out of 10 pregnancies to girls under 18 take place within a marriage. And, as you may know, every day, 39,000 girls are married in violation of their basic human rights. One in nine is married before the age of 15 and this, of course, will continue as long as families, communities and governments tolerate child marriage,” she said.
The report highlights the economic impact of adolescent pregnancy. It notes the lifetime opportunity costs related to adolescent pregnancy range from one percent of annual GDP in China to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.
To drive this point home, the report notes $3.4 billion could have been added to the Kenyan economy had the more than 200,000 adolescent mothers in the country been employed rather than pregnant.
The report finds in every region of the world, impoverished, poorly educated rural girls are more likely to become pregnant than those who live in richer, more urban areas. UNFPA Senior Maternal Health Advisor Luc de Bernis says the highest rates of adolescent maternal mortality are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
He says the problem is marginally greater in the Francophone than the English-speaking African countries.
“Africa is not homogeneous and we have many differences, but the fact is young girls are not protected in the majority of these countries — not in the Francophone for sure…and not in the English speaking world,” said Bernis. “In Kenya, Uganda, you have a rate of abortion which is absolutely enormous and it explains a big part of the maternal mortality. A big number of these abortions occur among very young girls.”
The report says adolescent pregnancy is a much bigger challenge in the developing world than in developed countries. But it finds that adolescent pregnancy is still a significant issue in the richer nations.
It says blaming a young girl for getting pregnant is counter-productive. Instead of changing the girl’s behavior, the report says, society should change its attitudes and actions.
Among the recommendations for reducing adolescent pregnancy with its related risks, the report suggests keeping girls in school, stopping child marriage, and providing adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive health, including contraception.
By Lisa Schlein
30 October 2013
Many young girls will never have any of those memories. As of today, the International Day of the Girl Child, around 250million of them live on less than $2 a day. They don’t go to school. They’ve never seen a doctor. In many cases, they’re married before they turn 15 and many die from childbirth complications.
Adolescent girls are not children, but they’re not quite adults. That makes them particularly vulnerable, powerless and at risk of different forms of exploitation. They are a category on their own, with very specific needs that global policy makers and the international humanitarian community must identify, understand and tackle appropriately.
So far, this hasn’t happened. Adolescent girls have notably been left out of the Millennium Development Goals agenda which, while successfully targeting the improvement of healthcare standards for women and children, has failed to address crucial issues regarding teenagers. In the eyes of those driving development, an adolescent girl is invisible.
There are plenty of ‘invisible girls’ around the word: 50% of Tanzania’s population is under the age of 15; 30% of the demographic of the entire Middle East is between the age of 15 and 29; and in India, more than half the nation is under 25. This is the largest youth generation in history. Its potential is unrivalled, yet left completely untapped. Worst, this category is now at risk.
Very rarely is contraceptive promotion targeted to the specific needs of young girls. Standard family planning for adult women is implemented instead. The unfortunate result is a rise in HIV infections and sexually transmitted diseases, along with 86million unintended pregnancies, almost half of which lead to abortion. Three million of such abortions are unsafe, and are a leading cause of maternal mortality.
Nearly 10% of all girls in low-income countries are mothers before they turn 16. They are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women aged 20; their bodies are just not ready for pregnancy. Yet in African countries – where half of all births are to adolescent girls – sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women.
Violence against girls continues to be one of the most pressing challenges the world faces. Nearly half of all recorded sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or younger, but very little has been done by the international community to create the right framework for these young victims to come forward, so justice can be enforced. As a result, the vast majority of violent crimes against girls go completely unreported.
How can we turn things around before it’s too late? We must start with the girls.
Teenage girls must be listened to and taken seriously. It’s time for the international development community to identify them as a priority target, one that must be consulted when implementing and evaluating new programs and services. The top-down approach has failed too often.
Girls must be the focus of targeted funding. But for that to happen, they must be properly identified first. Data must be compiled and analyzed in a much smarter way, classifying people not only by sex, but also by very specific age segments (10-14, 15-19). Failure to do so will result in ineffective programs, and further waste of aid money.
Sexual violence against girls must be increasingly addressed at both international and national levels. There is a chronic data deficit worldwide, as victims often don’t report rape. Even in countries such as the UK, only 15% of all victims of rape come forward. Much more has to be done to reassure young girls that justice is firmly on their side, preventing them from falling into the trap of self-blame.
Countries that don’t meet their obligations in enforcing the rule of law must be held accountable. Perception polls are a good to way to start, especially when data is lacking. The latest expert poll on women’s rights by the Thomson Reuters Foundation showed India to be the most dangerous country for women within the G20. The finding came six months before the infamous Delhi gang rape, and has since been used extensively by activists to demand change.
Education, however, must top all priorities. Placing girls in a safe learning environment means reducing their chances of being sexually or economic exploited, or married off as child brides. Giving girls the right skills means making sure they enter adulthood as active citizens, with more choice in life. It’s a matter of human rights, but also an investment that could solve global challenges. On average, 70% of every woman’s salary is spent directly on her family. This has obvious positive consequences for society at large.
It is estimated that just one additional year of secondary schooling can boost girls’ future earnings by 15-25%. In practical terms, that means that if girls in Nigeria had the same employment rate as boys, the country would add $13.9billion annually to the economy. In Kenya, this would add $27billion to the national GDP. In India, four million adolescent illiterate mothers translate into a loss of over $383billion in potential lifetime income.
There are tipping points in history that must be exploited. And the tipping point for gender seems closer than ever. But to trigger real change, we must be strategic and tackle the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. The main obstacle to girls’ empowerment – from access to healthcare, to safety and education – lies in the many discriminatory social norms embedded within their respective communities.
We know that cultural change is the hardest to harness, but with the active involvement of committed governments at a national level, and with the active participation of men, it can happen. The recent progress in the fight against female genital mutilation in Kenya is evidence that the backing of national governments is essential and can create wide-scale victories. When men see women leaders within their communities they understand the importance of education for their daughters.
Our tipping point is now. It’s time to take action. It’s time to make a radical shift, to start seeing girls not as vulnerable or as a liability, but as potential leaders. It’s time to see girls for who they are: the driving force of their generation, one poised to bring real social change.
Women’s access to healthcare is one of the themes at the forthcoming Trust Women Conference – London 3-4 December. The event is organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with the International Herald Tribune
11 October 2013
By Christy Turlington Burns and Monique Villa
Obstetricians and gynecologists, ministers, public health specialists and civil society organizations convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 2-5 October at the First International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Africa Regional Conference to discuss ways of improving maternal and child health in Africa.
Speaking at the opening, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Luiz Loures highlighted the link between HIV and maternal and child health. He called for women’s health and HIV communities to closely work together to increase access to life-saving health services to reach the most marginalized in society. He also stressed the need to uphold the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be living with HIV than men, accounting for 58% of the 22.1 million adults who were living with HIV in the region in 2012. Young women are particularly at risk of HIV infection–– around 28% of all new adult HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among young women between the ages of 15-24. HIV is also a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and has a major impact on child health and mortality, mainly through the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Dr Loures congratulated FIGO on its visionary and bold work on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. He also underscored UNAIDS commitment to strengthening its collaboration with FIGO to raise political visibility and engage women’s networks on HIV and sexual and reproductive rights issues to reduce AIDS related maternal and child mortality.
Human rights must be at the centre of our practice as everyone has a right to live. Our primary commitment as physicians is to save lives.
Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme
FIGO looks forward to active collaboration with UNAIDS to ensure the protection of the rights of women living with HIV regarding access to their services in the health sector.
Professor Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, FIGO President
Ethiopia has made excellent progress towards achieving the millennium development goals on maternal and child health and we are grateful for the assistance from our partners, such as FIGO and UNAIDS.
Dr Amir Amare, State Minister at the Federal Ministry of Health – Ethiopia
African Women MPs Discuss Family Planning
Kampala — African women MPs and leaders want parents to allow their teenage daughters to access family planning and reproductive health services with a view of bringing down the increasing cases of early and unwanted pregnancies, risky abortions and maternal deaths.
The women leaders on a two-day capacity building meeting that opened on Sunday at Speke Resort Munyonyo discussed ways on how they can reposition family planning and reproductive health on the development agenda of their respective government budgets.
The meeting was organized by Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPDARO) in collaboration with the Health Policy Project and drew participants from Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana and Uganda the host.
Former Kalangala district Woman MP, Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma, who is a member of the African Women Leaders’ Network said that one of the major objectives of the meeting is to ensure leaders push issues of family planning and reproductive health in their countries to get increased funding.
Increased funding, she pointed out, would be key in lowering the infant and maternal mortality rates and make family planning services accessible to all women.
Amid such efforts, most parents, especially mothers still carry a negative attitude of family planning and reproductive health to their teenage daughters, said Kavuma.
And the mindset is that some mothers think that by letting their teenage daughters to access family planning services, it would lead them into promiscuity.
“But parents ought to explain all issues around family planning and reproductive health to their teenage girls so that they are aware of the outcomes of any activity they might desire to involve themselves in, including early sex,” she said.
The former lawmaker underscored the need for parents to let their teenage daughters access family planning contraceptives because of the potential of early exposure to sexual activity.
“We want parents to allow the teenage girls to attend family planning meetings at various health facilities so that they can access information and services that can help them to avoid early sex and pregnancies and how to deal with all issues around reproductive health.”
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, the PPDARO director said there is need for African governments to increase funding towards family planning services.
He said, in Uganda for example, at least 34% of couples desire to have family planning services to space their births but cannot access them.
He went on to stress that efforts should be made to ensure this portion can have voluntary family planning services.
“If women can access voluntary family planning services, they will avoid risky and unwanted pregnancies and deaths, leading to spaced births that will be reflected in other sectors like gainful employment,” he said.
He explained that although Uganda has seen increased funding towards family planning in the last four years, there is still need to improve on policies that can benefit the grassroots women to access better health services.
Ellen Thokon Solomon from the Malawian parliament said many teenage girls in her country who became mothers disclosed that they had never received any information regarding family planning and therefore lacked knowledge on how to avoid early pregnancies.
Other young mothers in Malawi say, according to Solomon, that they would want to use family planning methods but cannot access the services or are not aware of facilities where they are available.
She therefore appealed for increased funding so that these services could be available to all women at the various lower health faculties.
By Eddie Ssejjoba
17 September 2013
In Sierra Leone, “HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria Pose Serious Threats to Development in Africa”…President Koroma tells Counterparts
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has said that HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pose serious threats to the socio-economic development of Africa.He made this statement on the occasion of the Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Monday 15th July, 2013.
The theme of the two-day summit is ‘Ownership, Accountability and Sustainability of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Response in Africa: Past, Present and the Future’.
President Koroma informed his colleague Heads of State and Government that Sierra Leone has drastically reduced HIV infections and was now aiming towards a zero tolerance plan against the malaise. Whilst acknowledging the challenges facing the fight, he however maintained, “We have shown leadership as a nation”.
The president also informed the Summit that in the fight against malaria & TB, the Government of Sierra Leone has made tremendous progress and was still making the necessary efforts to minimize the presence of these syndromes in the country.
President Koroma further used the platform to continue to appeal to donors to increase funding to enable performing governments accomplish their struggle against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa.He also called on all to renew their vow and fight against these diseases so that the continent will realize sustainable socio-economic development.
He commended his Nigerian counterpart His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan and the African Union for the initiative to organize a Special Summit to implement the Abuja Call for Accelerated Action towards Universal Access to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria treatment services in Africa.
In his opening remarks, the Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said the presence of his colleagues at the Summit signifies the importance they attach to the development of Africa. He pointed out that these diseases were crucial to the socio-economic development of the continent and still remain major causes of morbidity and mortality. President Jonathan therefore urged his colleagues to give the relevant attention needed to address these syndromes.
Commending Global Fund for being the major funding agency that continues to sustain the fight against malaria, TB and AIDS, which he dubbed a “noble mission”, President Goodluck Jonathan called on his colleagues Heads of States and Government to take ownership of the process. He also implored them to sustain their commitment, noting that the Summit was also to review their total achievements so far and make a renewed commitment towards the challenge.
The President also acknowledged other development partners for their immense support and efforts towards the fight against malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the World’s thirty four million people living with HIV, 23.5 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 21 of the Global Plan’s 22 focus countries are in Africa. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were about 219 million cases in 2010 and about 90% of the estimated 660,000 deaths from malaria in that year occurred in Africa. Africa also carries a large burden of the TB disease with 30% percent of the approximately 9 million new TB cases each year and 9 of the 22 most affected countries coming from Africa.
Recognizing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and other related infectious diseases on the socio-economic development of Africa, the Heads of State and Government of Africa adopted the 2000 and 2001 Abuja Declarations and Action Frameworks committing Africa Union Member States to take measures to halt the progression of these diseases in Africa. This high level commitment, reinforced on multiple occasions at the continental level over the past five years, marked a turning point in the continental response to the three diseases stimulating a sharp increase in resources and the scaling-up of programs to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Although countries have strengthened their interventions in many of the priority targets set by the Abuja Call, they still continue to face constraints due to the lack of financial, material, technical and human resources for addressing health needs. Increase access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) is imperative. It is against this background that the Heads of State and Government during their Twentieth Ordinary Session of the January 2013 Summit held in Addis Ababa, endorsed the offer made by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to host the Special Follow-up Summit on the Abuja 2001 Africa Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other related communicable diseases in the third quarter of 2013 to address the numerous challenges that will enable Africa realize the Abuja Call objectives and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on health.
On arrival in Abuja, Nigeria, President Koroma was received by the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Sylvester Monye, where he was taken to CGOCC Company Limited for a brief presentation on projects undertaken by the company on hydro electricity and water supply.
By State House Communications
17 July 2013
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Coalition of the campaign, Africa for Womens’ Rights : Ratify and Respect reiterates its call for the continental ratification of this progressive instrument within the African human rights system and for its effective implementation.
Adopted on July 11, 2013, to complement and strengthen the articles of the African Charter related to the protection and promotion of women’s rights, the Maputo Protocol is an important instrument of reference. Its provisions, with regard to civil and political rights, physical and psychological integrity, sexual and reproductive health, non-discrimination, economic emancipation, among others, symbolise African States’ commitments to put an end to discrimination, violence and gender stereotypes against women.
« The adoption of the Maputo Protocol was an exceptional moment, historical for the realisation of the rights of women in Africa. Today, this instrument constitutes a model, a endless source of inspiration. Provided its ratification and full implementation, it can represent a real tool of action for the lasting transformation of our societies » declared Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the rights of women in Africa.
36 out of 54 member States of the African Union (AU) have so far ratified the Protocol, a clear victory for those who over the years have tirelessly mobilised and worked to achieve this goal. Moreover, in many countries, legal and institutional measures, such as laws prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence (Kenya, Liberia), criminalising domestic violence (Ghana, Mozambique), prohibiting female genital mutilation (Uganda, Zimbabwe) or establishing mechanisms mandated to promote women’s rights (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal), have accompanied these ratifications.
See the interview of Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the rights of women in Africa, on the progress made and challenges remaining since the adoption of the Protocol (interview conducted on 10 July 2013)
Despite these notable achievements, there are still some obstacles to the full realisation of women’s rights on the continent. Eighteen (18) states , have still not ratified the Protocol, and in several of these countries – including Sudan, Central African Republic or Egypt, which still facing serious political crisis or situations of armed conflicts – women continue to be the main targets of violence, discrimination and stigmatisation.
For Sheila Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President and Ag. Deputy Executive Director (Programs) at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI – Uganda), «Non-State Parties should understand that, today, the trend goes on the other side. 10 years after its adoption, it is time for these States to ratify the Protocol and accept that the guarantee and protection of women’s fundamental rights can no longer suffer from political, cultural or religious considerations or pretexts ».
In State Parties, several of the rights enshrined in the Protocol, or provided within national laws, are yet to be fully implemented. In DRC, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, thousands of women victims of sexual violence continue to demand justice and compensation; in Uganda, they are still waiting for equality within the family to be recognised ; in Nigeria, they continue to fight for their right to property to become a reality. Unfortunately, most of the State Parties do not respect their obligation, under article 26 of the Protocol, to indicate, in their periodic reports submitted to the ACHPR, the measures undertaken for the full realisation of women’s rights as provided within the Maputo Protocol.
«The adoption of the Maputo Protocol by African States represented a formidable progress from a legal point of view ; its effective implementation should now symbolise the respect of the obligations they have freely consented to abide by » declared Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.
On this tenth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, the Coalition of the Campaign Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect pays tribute to the determination and courage of the women and men who advocate tirelessly to ensure that the rights guaranteed in the Maputo Protocol are not lost. In this regard, our Coalition notes with concerns the repeated attacks in several countries against women activists, a phenomenon that must be taken seriously and to which States must respond without delay. The Coalition of the Campaign calls on all national, regional and international actors to join the considerable efforts that are made on a daily basis for the ratification and enforcement of the Maputo Protocol.
SOURCE : International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)10 July 2013
The United Nations designates every July 11 to highlight issues related to population growth, including environmental sustainability, global development, health care and youth empowerment.
With 16 million girls under 18 giving birth and 3.2 million of these teens experiencing unsafe abortions each year, the U.N. has focused the theme of 2013′s World Population Day on teenage pregnancy, highlighting the important role that teen girls play in positively impacting future generations and underscoring the importance of providing them with adequate health care and educational resources.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement today raising awareness about the dangers and complications of unplanned teenage pregnancies.
“Complications from pregnancy and childbirth can cause grave disabilities, such as obstetric fistula, and are the leading cause of death for these vulnerable young women,” he wrote. “Adolescent girls also face high levels of illness, injury and death due to unsafe abortion.”
The Secretary-General also proposed various solutions to address core issues of the teen pregnancy epidemic.
“To address these problems, we must get girls into primary school and enable them to receive a good education through their adolescence. When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income,” he stated.
Several nonprofits worldwide have taken to Twitter to highlight the issue of population growth and this year’s theme of teen pregnancy.
By Nader Salass
11 July 2013
The Health Department wants to use antiretrovirals to treat patients with a CD4 count of 500 or more next year, as recommended by the World Health Organisation’s new guidelines.
Currently pregnant women and patients with a CD4 count (a measure of immunity) of 350 or less qualify for treatment.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told The Times: “The guidelines we are currently following are from WHO, so I see no reason why we should not adopt the new guidelines. If they come with new guidelines, ours is to follow.”
But activists and doctors say the department needs to sort out its drugs stocks first.
On Sunday, the UN organisation announced the new guidelines. It said because treatment makes HIV-positive people less infectious, giving it to more people would save millions of lives by 2020.
South Africa has 2million people on ARVs, a regime that resulted in life expectancy jumping by six years last year.
Professor Francois Venter, of the HIV Clinicians’ Society, said doctors debated giving ARVs to healthier people extensively last year.
He said that giving ARVs to a million more people would create jobs and keep people in the health system.
“Patients hate being told to come back later [to get treatment].”
But, he said, “It would have been good to sort out supply issues first.”
However, with more people on treatment for longer, there is a greater chance of people developing resistance to the drugs, as happened with TB medications.
This can result in premature deaths.
Venter said the research on starting treatment earlier has not factored in “drug interruptions that we are seeing throughout our region”.
Mluleki Zazini, general secretary of the National Association for People Living with HIV and Aids, said his organisation had raised concerns about ARV stocks.
Zazini said Motsoaledi had promised to implement a centralised hi-tech stock-monitoring system for drugs.
By SIPHO MASOMBUKA and KATHARINE CHILD
5 July 2013
Of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set out in the year 2000 by the United Nations during its Millennium Sumit held at its headquarters in New York, which are to be achieved by 2015, goals 4, 5 and 6 have direct bearing on maternal and infant mortality. They are reducing child mortality rates, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
While most countries around the world are working round the clock to achieve the goals, less than two years to the target date, most Nigerians are skeptical that the country will achieve such a target by the year 2015 when more than half of the issues related with the identified goals are still being handled with laxity.
Maternal mortality, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.
Child mortality, on the other hand, refers to the death of infants and children under the age of five. In 2011, 6.9 million children under five reportedly died down from 7.6 million in 2010, 8.1 million in 2009 and 12.4 million in 1990. Child mortality is more prevalent in the Sub-Saharan Africa with about half of child deaths being recorded there.
In Nigeria, experts said pregnancy, labour and early childhood are well recognized as being hazardous in most communities. Every now and then, women get pregnant and are delivered of their children some of whom often die from preventable diseases.
There are growing concerns about the way women and children die daily as a result of health complications in the country. According to experts, statistics on maternal deaths in the country are so shocking and unacceptable. It is said that a nation which allows her women to die in the process of bringing forth live only exists on borrowed time.
Official figures from the National Population Commission (NPC) few years ago claimed that there were 52,000 cases of maternal deaths in Nigeria annually; that is about 142 deaths daily. It also said that for every dead woman, there are 20 cases of morbidities such as obstetric fistula, infections and disabilities.
However, a recent report by the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria claimed that 11,600 maternal deaths were recorded in three months – between January and March this year – an average of 45 women died from pregnancy complications every day within the period.
According to the society, Nigeria accounts for 10% of maternal deaths in the world, ranking the second highest after India. This was made known by the Lagos State chairman of the society, Dr Oulwarotimi Akinola.
Akinola said the major causes of high maternal mortality rate in Nigeria are haemorrhage infection, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, obstructed labour and anaemia, saying that any efforts by the government to reduce maternal mortality rates in the country must address the root cause of delays in seeking healthcare, accessing it and receiving help at any centre.
There are however other challenges that were identified by stakeholders, which are specific to rural areas. Delivering a paper recently at an event organized by the National Council of Women Societies of Nigeria (NCWS) recently, Hajiya Khadijat Mustapha Giwa of the FCT Health Department said the problems range from lack of proximity of healthcare posts to the target people at the grassroots, non-functional health centres, unqualified healthcare personnel and illiteracy among the target groups which make them to resort to traditional birth attendants (TBAs).
President of the council, Nkechi Okemini Mba, while expressing her concern on the issue stated that, “an important yardstick for measuring the development in the health sector as a nation is the level of transformation we are able to record in the grassroots.”
Worried by the development, the NCWS President said the council was partnering Faxmail Research Unit to bring up a programme called Natal Care Partnership Initiative in order to take the campaign on maternal health to all the 774 local governments in Nigeria with a view to sensitizing the rural women on their health.
She said, “Unfortunately over the years, the safety of mother and child in the local councils has been ill-attended to, especially goals 4, 5 and 6. Nigerian mothers and children residing in the villages have been most vulnerable. This is because they were largely exposed to difficult circumstances ranking first in malaria and infant mortality rates in the world.”
She added that it was the gaps and setbacks witnessed in the past that gave birth to such partnership. “To deliver on this requires the capacity to transform the way we do things to ensure plans translate into action and action into results. This programme will set up a common platform among LGAs for uniform action in reducing and enhancing delivery of Maternal and Child Healcare (MCH) and review in line of responsibility that are often blurred.”
On his part, Ambassador Boniface Anidobu, who is the managing consultant, Faxmail Research Unit, said Natal Care is based on four components which are physical care, emotional care, healthcare and spiritual care, out of which only healthcare is provided by government, while the rest are influenced either by the environment or cultural background of the people.
The programme, he said, would target reducing maternal and child deaths scourge in Nigeria, achieving MDGs 4, 5 and 6, eradicating polio and providing a reliable database necessary for evaluating healthcare service provision, planning and research duties.
As the nation marches towards 2015, experts believe that government must take the issue of maternal and child mortality seriously by matching words with actions for it to achieve the set target.
By Musa Abdullahi Krishi
28 June 2013
US Supreme Court strikes down policy requiring AIDS groups to oppose prostitution in order to receive US Government funds.
On 20 June 2013, the United States (US) Supreme Court struck down section 7631(f) of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (The Leadership Act). This provision which the Court called the “policy requirement” mandates that no funds made available under the Leadership Act may “provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.”
The US Supreme Court ruled in response to a challenge filed on 23 September 2005 by 5 civil society organizations against the provision and its negative impact on their efforts to address HIV. The organizations include: Alliance for Open Society International; the Open Society Institute; Pathfinder International; the Global Health Council; and InterAction.
The US Supreme Court held that the policy requirement violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution which protects free speech. In particular, the Court held that the “policy requirement compels as a condition of federal funding the affirmation of a belief that by its nature cannot be confined with the scope of the Government program.” The Court noted that “the First Amendment prohibits the government from telling people what they must say.”
Commenting on the decision of the Court, Purnima Mane of Pathfinder International said, “It has been a long and uphill battle, but we are very happy that the Court has spoken out in defense of our ability to engage with sex workers so we can better put in place programs that protect them and their clients from HIV.”
Respondents had claimed, among other things, that adopting a policy explicitly opposing prostitution may diminish the effectiveness of some of their HIV programs by making it more difficult to work with sex workers—a population at higher risk of HIV infection.
In its 2012 report, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law already noted that, “The pledge puts grantees in an impossible bind. If they don’t sign, they are denied the funds they need to control and combat HIV. If they sign, recipient organisations are barred from supporting sex workers in taking control of their own lives.”
Female sex workers are 13.5 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women of reproductive age in low-income and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest HIV prevalence, the pooled HIV prevalence among sex workers is 36.9%.
The involvement and empowerment of sex workers with regard to HIV prevention, treatment and care services has shown to have great impact in reducing HIV infections among both female sex workers and the overall adult population. “The end of this requirement is a significant victory for sex workers and their advocates globally. Our contributions to effective HIV responses have now been recognised,” said Ruth Morgan-Thomas of the Global Network of Sex Work Project.
Given the importance of the case for the global AIDS response, the UNAIDS Secretariat participated as an amicus curiae (friend of the court). In that role, UNAIDS provided public health evidence and human rights arguments to support greater access to funding and resources for organisations engaged in HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services with and for sex workers. UNAIDS main points to the Supreme Court included: 1) Sex workers are among the populations most affected by HIV; 2) engagement with sex workers is essential to an effective response to HIV; and 3) any effective response requires adequate funding for programmes designed to ensure HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé praised the groups that were courageous enough to challenge the provision. “This shows civil society at its best – advocating for global health for all. No group, including sex workers, should be left behind in our efforts to bring the AIDS epidemic to an end.”
US funding critical to HIV response
US leadership and generosity has been instrumental in the progress made in the global AIDS response over the last decade. Since the adoption of the Leadership Act, some 45.7 billion dollars have been made available to address HIV worldwide. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), authorized by the Leadership Act, has been the largest health initiative ever undertaken by one country to address a global health epidemic. Thanks to US funding, access to HIV treatment has been expanded in low- and middle-income countries, and millions of lives are being saved. The decision of the US Supreme Court to strike down the policy requirement will greatly contribute to expand and improve the global AIDS response even further.
21 June 2013