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White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Challenges World Economic Forum on Africa to Invest in Women's Health
Date:6/5/2008

Says Maternal Deaths Indicator of Failures to Provide Basic Health Care to Women

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, June 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood today made public its challenge to world leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Africa to invest in women's health as necessary to save the lives of women needlessly lost in pregnancy and childbirth. "While we, too, see tremendous opportunity in this, the fourth straight year of record-breaking economic growth in Africa, we can not accept that in these same countries women continue to die in childbirth, only because they can not access basic health care," said Rose Mlay, National Coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania.

Citing recent reports that the UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 is unlikely to be met in Asia until 2076 and many years later in Africa, Mlay was joined by White Ribbon Alliance leaders from 17 countries - including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia - who uphold maternal health is a human right and underscore that a woman's risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 26 in Africa, as compared to 1 in 7,300 in industrialized regions.

"Maternal mortality is the single greatest indicator of the failure of governments to ensure their people a functioning health care system," said Jamilah Al-Sharie, Secretary General of the White Ribbon Alliance in Yemen. "Whether in Bangladesh or Zambia, where there is the political will to invest in health care systems to provide quality obstetric and emergency care, almost all women live through the complications that would otherwise kill them."

"Every minute another woman dies in childbirth," said Jeremie Zoungrana, National Coordinator of the Alliance in Burkina Faso. "We urge the members of the World Economic Forum to use their influence and resources to make sure richer nations meet their obligations to assist poor nations and support African nations to make good on the Abuju Declaration to allocate 15% of the national budget to health. Not only is an investment in women's health one that reaps enormous economic benefits, it is the right thing to do."

Experts estimate a package of maternal health services costing less than US$1.50 per person could make significant improvements in women's health in the 75 countries where 95% of maternal and child deaths occur. Funding for population, family planning and reproductive health has declined since the mid-1990s, especially if HIV/AIDS money is excluded. Aid to the least developed countries has essentially stalled since 2003. Dangerously low and declining investments in women's health jeopardize gains made to reduce child mortality and combat HIV/AIDS as well as development to eradicate poverty.

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, with members in 91 countries, is leading a global campaign - A Promise to Mothers Lost: Healthy Pregnancy and Safe Childbirth for All - to amplify demands for greater investment in maternal health and to catalyze public support to hold politicians and public officials accountable for ensuring systemic changes to give every woman access to quality health services. For more information, please go to http://www.promisetomothers.org.

Contact: Deborah Clark, Communications Director

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood

debclark@promisetomothers.org, 071-625-5944


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SOURCE White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
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