African leaders in emotional debate over maternal deaths

Kampala- Uganda (PANA) -- Taking a critical look at the official theme of the 15t h Summit of the African Union (AU), "Maternal, Infant and Child health and Devel o pment in Africa", African leaders openly shared personal experiences of losing b e loved ones through maternal deaths during a debate on Sunday.
AU Chairman Bingu wa Mutharika told the African leaders of his grief after losin g a loved one at once in life after unsuccessfully looking for a health facility all night.
And remembering his childhood (precisely at the age of 12), Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said that he had to walk 15 kilometres to the nearest hospital t o assist his sister who had to give birth to a baby.
"I had carried that image throughout my life and that was why I had to seek ways of alleviating the challenges faced by African women," said President Guebuza w h o had to push for an African leaders' debate to discuss maternal deaths.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told his peers of his disappointment with the fact that pregnant women had to walk several kilometres to health clinics while their condition worsened.
At the opening of the debate, the leaders tussled with eminent South African mus ician, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who dismissed excuses that Africaâ?s low economic gro wth had constrained state resources to be able to effectively devote adequate fu n ds for the fight against deaths linked to pregnancy and child birth.
President Kikwete said it was unacceptable for women to die in Africa for the me re fact that the continent had no resources, including money, to deal with the i s sue.
Earlier, Ugandan President had insisted that Africa's economic prosperity was cr itical for Africa to deal with the subject of maternal deaths.
But Chaka-Chaka accused the Ugandan leader of showing lack of commitment to tack le the challenge.
"Those are the people who have put you in power.
You must walk the talk.
There c an be no economic development without people.
Dead people do not pay bills," the popular African singer and UN envoy, said.
UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thuraya Obaid, tasked the African leaders to increase investments in the area of maternal deaths.
"When no woman dies, that is an investment in the economy," the UNFPA chief told the leaders.
Contributing on the debate, Namibian President Hefikepunye Pohamba, called on th e leaders to take serious steps, including creating a permanent reporting system , to track progress in ending the scourge.
Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said ending the deaths of African wo men and children was possible as he called on developed countries which have att r acted the best-trained African medical experts to contribute towards solving the problem.
"Maternal deaths in Africa," he added "can be reduced, if not entirely eliminate d.

26 july 2010 14:55:00

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