Yesterday, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) announced the launch of a groundbreaking new publication, “Maternal Health - An Advocacy Guide for Parliamentarians.” Focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, this resource functions as a guidebook with practical steps Parliamentarians can take, on multiple levels, to raise awareness and advocate for maternal and child health.
The need for a specialized focus on the Asia-Pacific region is evident in the facts: of the estimated 358,000 maternal deaths occurring each year, nearly half take place in this part of the world. Thirteen out of 43 countries in this region have high or very high maternal mortality ratios, and 17 countries are expected to not be able to reach MDG5b’s goal of providing universal access to reproductive health. 55% of women with unmet need for contraception live in the Asia-Pacific region. These startling statistics are due to a number of factors: poor health care infrastructure and lack of access to maternal and reproductive health services, as well as social factors such as lack of female decision-making power, gender discriminatory eating practices resulting in poor nutrition, and high rates of domestic violence. In fact, domestic violence is the second largest cause of deaths during pregnancy in India.
Through the years, advocates in the Asia-Pacific region have gathered to talk about the devastation left behind by maternal mortality and what can be done to reverse this trend. In 2009, AFPPD and UNFPA organized a consultation in Bali which called for Parliamentarians to monitor national implementation of maternal health related plans. Global conferences, such as the Women Deliver 2010 conference, have provided increased support and advocacy for reproductive health campaigns in the Asia-Pacific region.
Within the report, 14 strategies are highlighted to advocate for maternal health and curb maternal deaths.
In response to challenges faced within primary health care delivery:
- Strategy 1: Increase access to skilled birth attendants
- Strategy 2: Increase access to emergency obstetric care during delivery and complications
- Strategy 3: Increase access to reproductive health services, including family planning, safe abortion, and adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health services
- Strategy 4: Promote immediate care for mother and newborn after delivery
At the community level:
- Strategy 5: Ensure appropriate attention to diseases and micronutrient supplementation during antenatal checkups
- Strategy 6: Ensure emergency preparedness and entitlement awareness for the entire family
- Strategy 7: Strengthen civil society’s capacity to act as a watchdog for maternal health
At the national governance level:
- Strategy 8: Ensure reporting of adequate and reliable data on maternal and newborn deaths
- Strategy 9: Advocate for governments and donors to spend more on maternal and newborn health
- Strategy 10: Mobilize parliamentary national committees to engage different sectors and stakeholders in partnerships
- Strategy 11: Oversee government accountability for disbursement of donor funds in maternal health
At the regional/global level:
- Strategy 12: Advocate for external debt relief
- Strategy 13: Advocate for bilaterals/donors to support national health budgets
- Strategy 14: Advocate for governments to engage in regional cooperation to achieve MDG5 by 2015 or beyond
In addition to these strategies, the report highlights key approaches and also includes a useful checklist for Parliamentarians in assessing the current position of maternal health in their countries. This practical resource is much-needed, and is surely a critical step towards reaching MDG 5.
To obtain a copy of the report, please contact the AFPPD.