ABUJA, Nigeria—Some 250 tribal and traditional leaders from 21 countries are meeting in Nigeria this week to draw up a joint assault on the continent's stubbornly high maternal mortality rates.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said it had called the summit conference because many African citizens do not utilize modern hospitals, medical procedures or family planning methods. "Traditional and religious leaders are listened to and respected," the agency said in a statement. "They have a critical role to play."
Meeting in the northwest Nigerian city of Sokoto since July 16, the rulers have been discussing the causes of maternal death and disability and steps they might take to combat them. Half a million women die of pregnancy-related causes every year – one per minute, while another 20 women suffer injury or disability. Nigeria loses 30,000 women per year, and one in 16 sub-Saharan women has a lifetime risk of death from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
"Traditional and religious leaders can make substantial contributions…provided they are sufficiently informed, effectively mobilized and positively challenged," UNFPA said.
The gathering, titled "No woman should die giving life," has drawn rulers and other participants from Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda, as well as Nigeria. The meeting ends Tuesday.
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