Instead of being met with joy, Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, says there is all too often “justifiable fear in news of pregnancy.”
Her address to the African Union Summit in Uganda comes as leaders set focus on the health of mothers and children.
She says it’s evident that African leaders have always appreciated investments in mothers and care for children.
Migiro paints a gloomy picture of women who suffered difficult labour, citing the case of a 16-year-old Awatif Altayib of Sudan, who not only lost her baby in two days of labour but also sustained injuries with obsteric fistula.
“Her future with this debilitating condition looked bleak – until she recovered with assistance from the UN Population Fund and its partners. Now Awatif is a working midwife, helping other women to survive,” she said.
Another victim of pregnancy complications was Hawa Barrie whose southern Sierra Leone with a population of 2.5 million people has only one gynecologist. She and her newborn son survived, thanks to concerted efforts of the government and its partners.
“Abiodun Titi of Nigeria is another thriving African mother. Although she is HIV-positive, she was able to conceive with her HIV-negative husband safely thanks to a method involving the female condom. With help from the UN and its partners, she now teaches others this life-saving approach.”
Unfortunately, millions African women do not have the same opportunities in a continent with highest rate of maternal mortality rates in the world, setting back the progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals of drastically reducing the problem.
Migiro applauds African leaders for their seriousness to tackle maternal and child health, expressing the United Nations readiness to work with Africa to make good on its proud traditions in recognising meaningful social role of women.
The former Tanzanian minister of gender urges the Summit to also look into conflicts, poverty and other blights that many girls and women grapple with.