By SOLA OGUNDIPE
WITH a 20 percent unmet need for family planning in Nigeria, the need to invest in country-specific family planning supplies and programmes has been stressed. President of the Women Deliver, Jill Sheffield who disclosed this in an interview, said: “Nigeria should invest in family planning supplies and programmes, which would drastically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, newborn deaths, and unsafe abortions.”
Sheffield, who spoke to Vanguard in a follow-up interview to the Regional Consultative conference that took place in Kampala Uganda, about specific areas in which Nigeria and other African countries required more capacity building, skills empowerment, and technical support for improved maternal health, observed that latest data released by Countdown to 2015, showed that 1 in 23 women in Nigeria will die of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
“The good news is that the vast majority of maternal deaths are entirely preventable. By strengthening health systems, training more community health workers and ensuring the availability of necessary medicines and equipment, governments across Africa can prevent or manage life-threatening pregnancy-related complications and save countless women’s lives.
But none of this is possible without strong political and financial commitments at the local, national and international scenes.”
Commenting on the response of African governments to the challenge of maternal health, Sheffield observed there has been progress on maternal health in many parts of Africa, as evidenced by the 26 percent decline in maternal mortality over the past two decades.
“Strong leadership from African policymakers has been key to this progress. More than 30 countries launched the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), which sets clear, country-specific priorities and goals for reducing maternal mortality.
“And even more recently, delegates at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Kampala passed a resolution calling on members to take all possible measures to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015.
However, with nearly 600 women in sub-Saharan Africa still dying every day of pregnancy-related causes, there is more work to be done.
“The progress Africa has made on maternal health to date shows us that success is possible. If African leaders continue prioritising and investing in the health and well-being of girls and women, I believe we can bring about a sea change across the continent,” she stressed.
In her brief, Sheffied said: “African countries and governments already have national and regional frameworks they can use to address maternal health challenges. In 2006, African Heads of State adopted the Maputo Plan of Action, which sets out a framework of clear goals, outcomes, outputs, indicators, timelines, and costing for countries to improve reproductive health.
Renewed focus on MDG5, and the African Union’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA), also offer a crucial opportunity to help countries fulfill the Maputo Plan of Action.