The legislative arm of the African Union, the Pan African Parliament (PAP), has adopted a broad resolution urging speakers of the continent’s Parliaments to prioritize the implementation of maternal, newborn and child health programmes.
It also called for high-level parliamentary action on policy and budgets to accelerate progress in Africa towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 on child and maternal health.
In the resolution passed during the 5th session of the 2nd Pan African Parliament held on 3rd-14th October, in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, PAP members reiterated that maternal, newborn and child health is critical to overall human and social development in Africa.
In July 2010, the African Union heads of state and government made far-reaching commitments towards maternal and infant health at a high-level summit held in Kampala, Uganda.
The latest PAP resolution combines integrated implementation of African maternal, newborn and child frameworks with the United Nations Secretary-General`s Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health, launched in 2010 to accelerate progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
According to the United Nations, 7.6 million children under the age of five and approximately 350,000 women die each year of pregnancy-related causes, most of which are preventable.
Underlining the need for accelerated global action, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: “We must, therefore, do more for the newborn who succumbs to infection for want of a simple injection, and for the young boy who will never reach his full potential because of malnutrition.”
Health experts and campaigners said parliaments have a significant role to play in reinvigorating policy and budgetary support towards maternal and infant health in Africa.
Commending the Pan African Parliament Resolution, Rotimi Sankore, Secretary of the Africa Public Health Parliamentary Network, stated: “We welcome this landmark resolution by the Pan African Parliament, which is a significant step towards African parliamentary action to help end the tragic annual loss of an estimated 4.2 million lives of African women and children. The resolution strongly complements the African Union Commission-led Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), launched in 31 countries over the last two years.”
Carole Presern, Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn &Child Health, underlined that “This PAP resolution demonstrates the vital and positive contribution that parliaments globally can make to saving and improving the lives of women and children, and in particular the commitment of African parliamentarians to their constituents”.
With this resolution, five senior members from each of the 54 African Union member states have pledged to work alongside speakers and relevant committees of national parliaments, to implement the PAP resolution on maternal, newborn and child health.