KIRUKU: Women and children cannot live on unga alone
By Anne Kiruku; East African News Agency
The just-concluded 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has set out a road map for women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health which, if implemented by the East African Community partner states, will ensure significant improvement in the health and general well being of its citizens.
Despite the many strategies applied by EAC national governments to improve the health of women and children across the region, maternal deaths and children mortality rates continue to skyrocket, thereby affecting the general productivity of the people. It also frustrates efforts to combat poverty and to enhance women economic empowerment and gender equality.
The region continues to record some of the highest maternal deaths and child mortality rates worldwide. In Tanzania, for example, the maternal mortality rate stands at 410 per 100,000 live births, while in Kenya the statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that there are 400 deaths for every 100, 000 live births. In Uganda, the mortality rate is 360 deaths per 100,000 live births, while in Rwanda the rate stands at 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Burundi, the situation is horrifying to say the least, at 740 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Why is the situation so pathetic across the region? Extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of sufficiently skilled health personnel, lack of facilities in the few health centres that are available, low morale among health workers, and the lack of skills and knowledge among health workers to handle emerging health issues, are just some of the reasons why the region is losing the war against women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.
The EAC partner states need international assistance in crafting a comprehensive response to the challenges facing women, children and adolescents. But first and foremost, partner states must commit themselves to adopt and implement the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030, launched by UNGA in New York.
So far, commendable efforts by the East African Health Platform – in collaboration with the East African Business Council and the East African Community – to have a unified rights-based response to maternal, new-born, child and adolescence health programming in East Africa have been made and are yielding positive results.
Some of the projects under the EAC which are being funded by the Open Society Initiative for East Africa are addressing the critical issue of women, child and adolescent health in East Africa. The recently launched unified rights-based response serves to provide comprehensive guidance on the challenges facing mothers, neonates, adolescents and children in East Africa as the first step towards eliminating preventable deaths and morbidity among these groups.
Our leaders must have the goodwill and political commitment to improve the health of the people, which can only be demonstrated through increased budgetary allocation to projects and programmes that work towards improving women, children and adolescents’ health. The
Global Strategy is intended to inspire and hold political leaders and policy makers accountable to further accelerate their work to improve the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
It is not a favour – as most citizens have been made to believe – for the government to build health facilities, employ sufficient qualified health personnel, and provide infrastructure in hospitals. It is the role of the government to provide these and a constitutional right for the citizens to receive them. Our people must be guided to drive change, claim their rights, and hold leaders to account. This is one of the key Global Strategy aims – to empower and educate communities to claim their rights.
No woman, child or adolescent deserves to die of preventable and curable disease in this day and age. The EAC national governments must ensure that every woman, child and adolescent has access to the health services they need to survive and thrive in today’s world.
The region should now work toward ensuring maternal and child mortality is a thing of the past by increasing financial commitment to the noble cause and taking necessary actions to end all preventable deaths among women, children and adolescents.
The international community, donor partners as well as non-governmental organisations should increase their political and financial commitment to deliver on the Global Strategy.
It is possible to have a region where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential. Health for women, children and adolescents will create a ripple effect that will be felt by even men, thus improving the general well-being of all the people.
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