A New Role for Africans in Global Maternal Health

By Dr. Fred Sai, co-host of Women Deliver 2010 and former advisor to the Ghanaian government on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. You can follow the live stream of the Women Deliver 2010 conference from June 7th to 9th at

Originally posted at ONE blog.

This March, the Lancet released new statistics that revealed an unprecedented drop in the number of women who die every year during pregnancy and childbirth. The study found that from 1980 to 2008, maternal deaths globally have fallen from 500,000 each year to 340,000. Having spent some 40 years working on women and children’s health in Ghana and across Africa, I welcomed this progress. But as the world celebrated, I also couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is Africa?”

Delivering A Better Future For Women And Girls

By Dr. Fred Sai
(Dr. Fred Sai, was a former adviser to the Ghanaian Government on Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS and is currently the honarary co-chair of the Women Deliver 2010 conference)

This article was published in Ghanaian Times, Modern Ghana, and The Nigerian Voice

Theresa wakes up at the first glimmer of sun in the morning. It is Monday, the beginning of the week, and the first day of class at the school where she is a teacher. She baths and feeds her two children, Kofi and Naana. Together, they walk the short distance to the school, stopping to visit an elderly woman who Theresa and her women’s group at church support. When she arrives at school, Theresa gathers her forty-five class 5 pupils into the small classroom and begins a new year of lessons.

When I met Theresa in her small town just weeks ago, she struck me as one of the millions of women who deliver enormous benefits to our country, families and children every single day. Women like Theresa teach our children in school; they sell goods in the market; and they work in our banks, hospitals, and health centers. These women, increasingly left alone to their fate by absentee spouses or boyfriends, also carry and deliver our children—the future of our country.

PICK UP THE PHONE: A Call on Maternal Health

Tomorrow at 8pm (ET) the ONE campaign is holding an interactive conference call on maternal health with David Lane, ONE's President and CEO, and Christy Turlington Burns, who is holding a panel at Women Deliver on June 7 about the role of media in raising awareness around public health issues. She will also be previewing her new documentary film, NO WOMAN, NO CRY on Monday, 7 June 2010 at Women Deliver (see a list of all the cultural events at Women Deliver here). The call is sure to cover many topics of interest to Women Deliver, so I've included the information below in case you'd like to rsvp.

Report: How Unsafe Abortion Affects Women in Kenya

Every year, at least 2,600 women die from unsafe abortion in Kenya; 21,000 more women are hospitalized annually with complications from incomplete and unsafe abortion, according to a new report by the Center for Reproductive Rights titled, “In Harm’s Way: The Impact of Kenya’s Restrictive Abortion Law.” Although staggering, these numbers do not account for the number of women killed or disabled by unsafe abortions who never visit a health facility or whose cause of death is not recorded.

Small Grants Opportunity for Young People

Population Action International has just announced that they will provide a small grants program dedicated to supporting and empowering young people to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).   PAI will support organizations and networks in the three following countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.  Young people are often at a great disadvantage, especially when it comes to accessing accurate, timely information about their reproductive health needs.  Thus, PAI seeks to provide dedicated resources for advocacy to support young people in developing appropriate strategies for increasing resources and attention for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Mobile Phones: A New Tool for Saving Women’s Lives

Cell phones have cut dramatically the number of women dying during childbirth in Amensie village in south-central Ghana, according to an article posted on AlertNet.

Restrictive Abortion Laws Account for Maternal Deaths

New York – Increased contraceptive use has led to fewer abortions worldwide, but deaths from unsafe abortion remain a severe problem, killing 70,000 women a year, according to a major global survey from the Guttmacher Institute.

FIGO Launches Report on Maternal and Infant Deaths

Cape Town, South Africa – More than two million infants and women die worldwide each year from childbirth complications, outnumbering child deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS, according to a new study released at the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) world congress.

A Leap Forward on Free Healthcare

UN – At a high-level gathering on the margins of the General Assembly, world leaders pledged more than US $5 billion in multi-year funding and committed to a new global Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

A Breakfast with First Ladies

First Ladies have a unique position… they have ability to whisper in the ears of some of the most important people in the nation. And through these passionate and influential advocates, there’s the opportunity to address some of the biggest challenges facing girls and women.

Communities as the Missing Partner

An old cliché says that "all politics is local" - that people's votes are driven more by the quality of local services like garbage collection than by debates on big national issues.

Gordon Brown Leads the Push for Free Healthcare

UK – Prime Minister Gordon Brown is preparing to lead a push at the UN to scrap health charges in countries from Nepal to Sierra Leone. As ministers admit that international goals to tackle maternal and child mortality are "significantly off track," Brown believes that pregnant women, young mothers, and teenagers in the developing world should be given access to free healthcare.

First Lady of Zambia Speaks On Maternal Health

The First Lady of Zambia, Thandiwe Banda, has called for concerted efforts among stakeholders to reduce cases of maternal mortality and morbidity in her own country.

Tanzania Triples Budget for Contraceptives

According to a representative from IPPF, and as a result of advocacy activities by Tanzanian civil society, the Tanzania government has tripled is national budget line allocated for contraceptives to $7.65 million.

A First Lady Speaks Out on Maternal Health

Earlier this month, Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, wrote an article on Huffington Post titled, "It's Time to Make Mothers a Priority."

Op Ed on Maternal Mortality in Developing Countries

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama's visit to Africa this weekend "will send a powerful message to the world about their commitment to ensuring Africa's continued progress," wrote Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) in an opinion piece in">The Hill.

Barriers to Ending Maternal Deaths

Just when you think you've got it all figured out! We just found an article from about doctors in Ghana who have had to halt special prenatal home visits because road crash casualties are taking up so much of their time and scarce resources, medical workers say.

Letter to the Editor, NY Times

To the Editor: The May 29 editorial, Preventable Deaths notes little progress in the last decade on reducing maternal mortality - 500,000 deaths annually, 99% in developing countries.

Leadership for Health: Looking Back

Last week’s amazing meeting of some of Africa’s most conscientious First Ladies showed that the momentum we felt take hold at the Women Deliver conference in 2007 — the awareness and concern about the grim challenges that too many mothers confront when attempting to give life — is gaining strength.

Expanding Access to Plan B

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will clear the way for Plan B’s manufacturers’ to make the “morning-after pill” available without a prescription to 17-year-olds.

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