"This is a critical moment for African leaders to show they will put in place the dedicated resources and health policies that will save the lives of millions of their own people," said Chikezie Anyanwu, Save the Children's Africa Advocacy Advisor. "The proven solutions to ending the vast majority of child and maternal deaths are well-known and extremely cost-effective. What is leadership if not making sure those reach the millions of mothers, newborns, and children who will otherwise die?"
In the days and months leading up to the summit, Save the Children has joined a broad coalition of civil society groups from across Africa and around the world to call on African leaders to deliver four key commitments that will save the lives of mothers and children. Health experts and child and maternal advocates across Africa agree each leader at the AU Summit should commit to:
* Put a plan in place. Every African country must develop and implement an accelerated national plan for reducing maternal, newborn and child deaths.
* Make sure the resources are there. Every African country should meet and exceed its 2001 promise in Abuja, Nigeria to spend at least 15 percent of the national budget on health care. Additionally, a meaningful portion of this budget must specifically dedicated to maternal, newborn, and child health.
* Address health worker shortages. Countries must recruit, train and retain more doctors, nurses, and midwives to help reduce the overall gap of 800,000 health workers in Africa by 2015.
* Address the coverage gap between rich and poor. Countries must ensure health care, including emergency obstetric care, is accessible for the poorest people and is free at the point of use for pregnant women and children under 5.
A recent study published in the Public Library of Science medical journal estimates that in Africa 85 percent of maternal, newborn, and under-age-5 deaths could be prevented if all mothers and their children received a full package of essential health care that includes ability to plan and space pregnancies, skilled birth attendance, access to emergency obstetric care, early and effective postnatal care, immunizations and treatment for pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
That means that each year the lives of about 4 million African women, newborns, and children could be saved if already well-known interventions reached 90 percent of families on the continent. Africa is home to around 12 percent of the world's population, but has only 3 percent of the world's health workers and bears the burden of at least half the world's child and maternal deaths.
In September, all nations of the world will meet at a special U.N. summit to assess progress on reaching the Millennium Development Goals. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling for a joint action plan to accelerate progress on maternal and child health goals, which he says have seen the least progress toward reaching 2015 targets.
Anyanwu said: "The momentum is within reach to dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths and the suffering caused by inadequate healthcare that African leaders see first hand. But, last month the G-8 made it very clear that rich countries alone cannot end the scandal of 12,000 African children dying every day. At this summit, Africa has a historic chance to show that it can make a legitimate contribution to ending this injustice by agreeing to clear and committed action."
The recommendations to African Union leaders outlined above were agreed to at the Continental Conference organised by the African Union for health experts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April and reaffirmed at a meeting of over 70 civil society organisations working across Africa in Kampala on July 14-16. They were further discussed and included in recommendations at the Uganda National NGO Forum in Kampala on July 20. To spread word of these recommendations, Save the Children is working in coalition with Fair Play for Africa, Oxfam, Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information and Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), WaterAid, the White Ribbon Alliance and local civil society organizations across Africa.
Source: Save the Children