Johannesburg, August 2, 2013 - African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said that there can be no African renaissance if thousands of women die every year while giving birth, and when our most precious and vulnerable infants are not able to grow up and reach to their full potential.
Dr Zuma was speaking at the start of a three-day conference, hosted by the African Union with the Government of South Africa in Johannesburg, aimed to propel action to reduce maternal, new born and child mortality on the continent.
“Africa is going through dynamic transformation. We are witnessing a surge in economic investment and infrastructure but for this to lead to sustainable and equitable development; we need to make sure this translates into improving the quality of life for our citizens. This means making sure our mothers and children are healthy and we see a dramatic reduction in maternal and child deaths. Investing in maternal and children’s health is not an expenditure but an investment in our common humanity and common survival,” Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.
Despite significant progress, 3.5 million children under five, the majority in the first month, still die needlessly due to largely preventable causes and an estimated 164,800 women die in pregnancy or child birth each year in Africa.
President Jacob Zuma called for increased political commitment and domestic resource mobilisation for regional and continental health development programmes.
"It is generally believed that Africa in general, but sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is going to find it very difficult to achieve the health-related, MDGs. Our view is that a lot can still be achieved in 900 days," said President Zuma.
The African Union has played a key role accelerating and promoting efforts to improve women’s and children’s health in Africa. Through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, the AU is working towards training health workers in health, maternal and child nursing across the continent so as to address the alarmingly high mortality rates in Africa.
During the three-day conference, Governments from around the continent, along with UN agencies and development partners, will seek to recommit to meeting continental and international development goals and address persistent gender inequalities, social exclusion and weak public health systems.
At the end of the colourful opening ceremony, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka reminded African leaders in her song “Let the children live” that their success will be measured by the rate of mother’s and children’s deaths being prevented.
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