Though Amref Health Africa brings health and hope to all African families in need, beginning in 2010, we made a conscious decision to focus more heavily on maternal and child health.
What women in the developed world take for granted - skilled midwives, an obstetrician and operating theatre if needed, and the antibiotics and drugs to ensure that, should complications arise, the mother is rapidly brought back to good health – are great luxuries in Africa.
In particular, women in poor and remote communities, far from the nearest health services are most at risk- with young women and girls the most vulnerable. In many communities girls still marry at very young ages and contraceptive advice is poor or non-existent. Many of the worst complications in pregnancy are suffered by teenage mothers; giving birth is a physically traumatic experience for a girl whose body is still developing.
Based on current trends, sub-Saharan Africa will not attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. MDGs 4 and 5, to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity, are those towards which the least progress has been made. At the current rate of progress in sub-Saharan Africa, MDG 4 - to reduce child mortality, will not be met until 2165. MDG 5 which aims to “improve maternal health” is desperately off-track.
The shortfall in funds to meet the MDGs for maternal and child health amounts to only 2% of current development aid – a small fraction of world spending. Yet investing in women and their health strengthens families, communities and countries. Family budgets, local productivity and national wealth all flourish where maternal health is prioritized. In many countries, weak and fragmented health systems, and in particular inadequate human resources do not permit the scaling-up of crucial interventions for maternal, newborn and child health.
The training of skilled health workers and assistance for women in Africa is owed to present and future generations. It is a necessity for our common survival to foster sustainable economic and social development. We need to support the creation of healthy conditions for women and children.
On average, 162,000 mothers die each year during pregnancy and childbirth in Africa alone, and this rate is still going up in some countries. But, it does not have to be this way; most of these deaths are avoidable. Simple and affordable training will save lives and ensure that childbirth is a matter of joy, not a life-or-death crisis, for African Women.
Amref Health Africa is already working hard to help mothers. Our conviction is that there is now an urgent need to do more. It is simply unacceptable that more women will continue to suffer and die when simple affordable solutions are at hand.