AU Summit: Less Rhetoric and More Action Needed to Save Women and Childrens' Lives

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AU Summit: Less Rhetoric and More Action Needed to Save Women and Childrens' Lives

WASHINGTON - As African leaders return home from the AU Summit, they must
now take immediate action to implement the maternal and child health
promises they have made here, a coalition of civil society organisations
said today.

The coalition said the summit's final declaration included some
positive steps that if fully implemented could save the lives of
millions of African women and children. Yet it will be meaningless if it
is not now acted upon.

The coalition includes Fair Play for Africa, FEMNET, Oxfam, Save the Children and the White Ribbon Alliance.

In particular the organisations welcomed decisions to invest more in
community health workers and re-commit to meeting the so-called Abuja
target of investing 15% of national budgets in healthcare.
However, the Abuja promise was made in 2001 and this year only three
countries - namely Rwanda, Tanzania, and Liberia - have met the target,
according to recent World Health Organisation statistics.

The coalition said that words alone are meaningless unless they are
backed up by concrete and consistent actions, and leaders must ensure
dedicated funding for maternal, newborn and child health over the next
five years.

Nora Matovu-Winyi, Executive Director of FEMNET, said: "African
leaders must now come up with concrete plans and timetables to show how
they are going to re-orientate their policies, programmes and budgets to
eradicate maternal and child deaths in Africa. No woman should die
while giving birth."

During the three days of the Heads of State Summit,
an estimated 37,000 children and over 2,000 women died across Africa,
mostly from illnesses that with better policies and investment could be
prevented and treated.

Some leaders at the summit expressed concern that they do not have the money to prioritise healthcare.

"The irony of the lack-of-resources excuse is that Malawi, a very
poor country, has dramatically cut child deaths in recent years, exactly
because they did make that goal a priority," said Chikezie Anyanwu,
Save the Children's Africa Advocacy Advisor.

Malawi is now one of only 10 African nations on track
to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 - reducing child deaths by two
thirds of 1990 levels by 2015. Progress on reaching Millennium
Development Goal 5 - reducing maternal deaths by three fourths, has been
even slower in Africa.

"Until recently Malawi was also meeting the Abuja pledge of 15%
expenditure for health. We hope that the news that they are "on track"
doesn't give the impression that they can now step back from this
pledge," continued Anyanwu.

African leaders in Kampala pledged to reduce out-of-pocket health
care expenses, through strategies including making obstetric care and
care for children under five free. They must follow through on this and
other promises that could save millions of lives, the coalition said.

Desire Assogbavi, Head of Oxfam's AU Liaison office in Addis Ababa, said:
"While this declaration is a positive step, most of it has been
promised before but has never been delivered. Only 10% of AU decisions
are effectively implemented. There is a need to immediately put in place
comprehensive tracking and monitoring mechanisms to ensure the
decisions are fully implemented at national level. African people are
tired of rhetoric - now they need to see real change in their daily
lives".

African governments must accelerate the delivery of a comprehensive
package of the development goals. A key step would be to publicly
announce timetables and timeframes leading up to 2015, the target date
for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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