Africare Opens the Door to Reproductive Health Services
on World Population Day 2012
Africare joins the rest of the global health community in stressing the need for universal access to reproductive health services that with the theme for this year's World Population Day, “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services.”
Reproductive health problems remain the leading cause of ill health and deaths of women of childbearing age, worldwide. Reproductive health includes the gamut of services for women and men in family planning, maternal health, adolescent reproductive health and prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning, while 15 percent of all pregnant women experience a potentially life-threatening complication during childbirth.
Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving life, and a large proportion of them do not have access to the basic obstetric care that will save their lives and ensure their infants’ survival.
Universal access to reproductive health by 2015 is also one of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals; however, we have a long way to go. In sub-Saharan African countries, women and communities continue to experience needless suffering – they lack access to family planning, reproductive health services and reproductive rights, and almost 40 percent of women in developing countries deliver their babies without the presence of a nurse, midwife or doctor.
From Senegal to Somalia and from Tunisia to South Africa, Africare has been working in several countries to increase access to reproductive health services on the African continent. Many of Africare’s programs focus on the health of women and girls to realize the vision where every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is realized, and we are committed to working with governments, donors, private foundations, recipient communities to achieve this.
The key is to marry traditional approaches with current best practices; and by working with local health leaders, we have developed solutions that are sustainable, acceptable, improve the quality of health care and increase access to it.
Currently in Zambia, under the Integrated Maternal and Child Health Project (IMCH), Africare has been successfully combating the scourge of maternal death and disability. Central to the IMCH project are the Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs), a network of trained volunteers covering health centers and health posts in four districts in Zambia.
SMAGs conducts health education instruction and assures that pregnant women and mothers are able to identify danger signs and seek care immediately. A key part of the project’s activities is also to ensure that young people entering their reproductive years are provided with the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves. At health centers, the project’s trained health workers provide quality obstetric care and identify and refer cases requiring specialized care.
To combat the challenges faced by many women in isolated communities, IMCH supplies bicycle-ambulances to communities that enable the timely transportation of pregnant women to health facilities. Additionally, IMCH supports the community by building maternal waiting shelters near health facilities so pregnant woman can arrive early and await their labor; thus minimizing the chances of delay and labor complications.
Many of our project’s initiatives have resulted in increased antenatal care and attendance in deliveries at health facilities by mitigating and addressing cultural beliefs – along with logistical hurdles – and are resulting in reduced suffering and death of mothers and their children.
Africare’s work is an example of efforts that greatly chip away at the burden caused by the lack of access to reproductive health services for the ultimate realization of safe childbirths and the protection of the chance to live up to one’s potential.
In observance of World Population Day 2012, Africare pledges to continue to do our part in realizing a world where every woman, no matter her location, has access to reproductive health services.
Africare will continue to vigorously implement maternal and child health programs throughout Africa and strengthen country-led partnerships in this program implementation; and we call on government, partners, donors and the communities to join us in creating a just and equitable world— a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
UNFPA: Striking Statistics