Political will needed to improve women’s access to maternal health services
By Adlyne Wangusi
Dr. Joyce Banda, the former President of Malawi on Monday called on the African leaders to provide political good-will to improve access to maternal health services by women in the continent.
Speaking in Nairobi while delivering a keynote address at the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA)-organised Regional Conference 2018, Dr Banda said to adequately reduce maternal mortality, it is essential to address poverty and gender inequality, which together affect the demand for, utilization and supply of maternal healthcare services.
“Recognizing the interconnectedness of gender equality, peace and security, education, health, and strong leadership, it is imperative that governments give priority to a holistic approach in unleashing women’ and girls’ health and wellbeing from womb to tomb,” she said.
She pointed out that for Africa to be able to take a holistic approach to women’s health, the women must get to the policy tables and decision-making positions.
Beth Mugo, a Kenyan Senator and chief guest noted that there is a close link between women’s health and women rights in ensuring societal prosperity.
“No global goals can be realized if women’s rights are not protected and that the progress of any society is hugely determined by the consciousness of their women,” said Mrs. Mugo
She pointed out that the conference is taking place at a time when Kenya’s government has declared the promotion of affordable healthcare as one of the Big Four development agenda. In the health agenda, she said, the government commits to increase the funding for the health sector by about 20 per cent in the next four years.
“This is meant to move universal health coverage from the current 36 per cent to 100 per cent coverage by the year 2022. The National Health Insurance Fund is earmarked to be configured to promote digitization and extend services through 37,000 bank agents,” she said.
She called on Africa governments to fast-track funding for the health sector. “It is common knowledge that many health facilities in the developing countries especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa still remain under-equipped and understaffed. This is mainly due to underfunding of the health sector.
She applauded the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 that seeks to provide high quality of and the well-being of all citizen and full gender equality in all spheres of life
According to Dr. Christine Sadia, the President of Kenya Women Medical Association, the conference will also explore how different countries within the continent and beyond are making progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to respond more effectively to the shifting burden of disease, end extreme poverty, and boost shared prosperity.
Achieving UHC is one of the targets the nations of the world set when adopting the SDGs in 2015. Countries that progress towards UHC will make milestone towards the other health-related targets, and towards the other goals.
The conference brings together women in medicine, academicians, industry experts, policy makers, science and global health actors to share ideas on how to fast-track the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and advancements in health for women, children and adolescents.
The conference is being held under the theme “Accelerating Women’s Health Agenda: Priorities and Opportunities through UN SDGs and AU Agenda 2063.” aims at harmonising the voices of women in medicine in advocating and identifying solutions to women’s health agenda through Sustainable SDGs.
“More than ever before, governments, policy makers, donors and development partners need to show continued interest in supporting women’s health issues with an aim of alleviating problems that face women and girls across the globe,” said Dr. Sadia, adding that the evolving socioeconomic, political, environmental and demographic contexts for women’s health needs require urgent attention with a view to ensuring that girls and women not only survive, but thrive, and that these benefits are transferred to the next generation.