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Stronger Health Systems and Better Maternal Health Critical to African Development, Japan Summit Affirms

YOKOHAMA, Japan, May 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Stronger health systems, improved maternal and child health, and effective prevention of AIDS and other infectious diseases are essential to African development, more than 40 heads of State agreed today.

These health priorities were highlighted in the action plan adopted at the close of a three-day summit here hosted by Japan. Some 86 countries were represented, along with many international organizations.

Under the theme, "Towards a vibrant Africa: A continent of hope and opportunity," the meeting sought ways to accelerate economic growth, achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), foster peace and good governance, and respond to environmental concerns and climate change. Participants adopted a Yokohama Declaration and Action Plan for addressing these issues.

For UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the attention given to reproductive health issues was heartening.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced that Japan would double its bilateral development assistance to Africa by 2012, train 100,000 African health workers and increase its support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He also identified population as a critical concern for Africa's development, and offered assistance in improving maternal and child health.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the plenary that "Africa as a region is lagging" in efforts to achieve the MDGs by 2015. She reported that an MDG Africa Steering Group of international development partners had identified key investments needed in agriculture, education, health systems, child survival, transport, energy, water and sanitation, and broadband connectivity.

Elaborating on these recommendations at a press conference, Ms. Migiro singled out preventing women's deaths during pregnancy and childbirth - MDG 5 - as particularly challenging. "Reducing maternal mortality lies at the heart of implementation to achieve all the other goals," she said.

"Of all the Millennium Development Goals, MDG 5 is generating the least resources and lagging the furthest behind. And African women and families are paying the price," UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid stressed in a session on achieving the goals. She called on all leaders "to make the health of women a political and development priority."

Citing last year's Maputo Plan of Action on reproductive health, the Yokohama Action Plan calls for universal access to reproductive health services and an increase in the proportion of African women who give birth with skilled assistance to 75 per cent in five years. Trained midwives currently attend fewer than half of all deliveries in the region.

"African leaders and their development partners have recognized that investing in women and reproductive health is critical to successful development," Ms. Obaid said after the action plan was adopted. "UNFPA is ready to help put this commitment into practice."

The Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development continued a 15-year policy dialogue between Africa and its development partners to foster Asia-Africa trade, investment and technical cooperation.

TICAD IV -- co-organized by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank -- sought to promote scaled up investments in health, education, agriculture and food security, infrastructure, trade facilitation and national statistical capacity; more predictability in development assistance; and better collaboration in support of African countries' efforts to achieve the MDGs.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Related Links:


Stepping up Efforts to Save Mothers' Lives

Improving Reproductive Health

G8 Action Urged to Avert Six Million Mother and Child Deaths Every Year

SOURCE UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund
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