135: Resolution on Maternal Mortality in Africa

    The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Meeting at its 44 th Ordinary session held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, from 10 - 24 November 2008:

    Recalling that women's rights and the principle of non discrimination have been recognised and guaranteed in all international human rights instruments, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol, and all other international and regional conventions and covenants such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights relating to the rights of women;

    Recalling that women's rights to maternal health have been recognised and reaffirmed by the United Nations Plans of Action on Population and Development in 1994 and on Social Development in 1995 and have been enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995;

    Recognising that improving maternal and reproductive health is both a regional and international obligation enshrined in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Millennium Development Goals;

    Further recalling the commitments of the Heads of State and Governments in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa adopted during the 3 rd Ordinary Session held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 6-8 July 2004;

    Noting the commitments of the Heads of State and Governments in the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases made during the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Infectious Diseases in Abuja, Nigeria from 24-27 April 2001 to allocate 15% of their national budgets to health ;

    Standing by our Declaration on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Pretoria during our 36th Session in December 2004 that lack of political will, privatisation of essential services, failure to allocate sufficient resources and brain drain amongst other factors are at the centre of the non-realisation of economic, social and cultural rights in Africa including the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health ;

    Deeply disturbed that Africa currently has the worst records of maternal deaths in the world accounting for more than two hundred and fifty thousand deaths annually;

    Concerned that most member states of the African Union are not making progress in reducing the maternal mortality rates in their respective countries;

    Noting with concern that maternal mortality destroys the very foundation of the African family which according to article 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the “natural unit and basis of the society” and “the custodian of morals and traditional values recognised by the community”;

    Considering that the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa makes provision in article 14 for health and reproductive rights and in particular, obliges states to “ establish and strengthen existing pre-natal, delivery and post-natal health and nutritional services for women during pregnancy and while they are breast - feeding”;

    Appreciating the great role women play in securing the future of the society and that pregnancy being a natural occurrence, every society should seek to protect the life of the mother and the child from conception, to delivery and beyond;

    Convinced that preventable maternal mortality is a violation of the rights to life, health and dignity of women in Africa;

    Firmly convinced that only through effective health institutions as well as strategic and sustained funding to the health sector that the problem of maternal mortality will be managed and finally reduced in Africa;

    1. Declares that preventable maternal mortality in Africa is a violation of women’s right to life, dignity and equality enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;

    2. Calls upon African Governments to individually and collectively address the issue of maternal mortality in accordance with the recommendations attached to this resolution.


    Done in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 24th November 2008.

     

    RECOMMENDATIONS ON ADDRESSING MATERNAL MORTALITY IN AFRICA


    The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights


    In accordance with its Resolution on Maternal Mortality in Africa adopted during its 44 th Ordinary Session held from 10- 24 November 2008 in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, hereby recommends that States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

    1. Meet their obligations under the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases. In particular, to:

    • Allocate 15% of their national budgets to the health sector in accordance with the Declaration;
    • Ensure that market based economic reforms including privatisation do not take away the responsibility of the state to fulfil the right to health;
    • Ensure that health reforms, policies and programmes should make adequate considerations of the right of poor and rural women to access basic healthcare as enshrined in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;
    • Further ensure that access to ante natal and obstetric services as much as practicable be free, available and accessible;
    2. Adopt human right based approaches in the formulation of country programs and strategies to reduce maternal mortality in Africa. In particular to:
    • Ensure participation of women and civil society in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and frameworks aimed at addressing maternal mortality;
    • Take all appropriate measures including positive discrimination in providing funds for specific programs and projects to secure maternal health;
    • Provide a well staffed and equipped maternity centres in rural areas;
    • Employ and retain skilled health personnel and birth attendants at rural and semi-urban areas;
    • Train and retain health workers in emergency obstetric care;
    • Develop community led emergency transport systems to cushion the effect of delays in getting medical attention;
    • Develop adaptive training curriculum for the education of women and girls on rights to reproductive health.
    3. Include in their periodic reports under article 62 of the African Charter:
    • The general state of maternal health, including the level of mortality and morbidity and challenges faced in implementing related programs;
    • Policy and institutional measures taken to give effect to the provisions of article 14 of the African Charter on the right to the best attainable state of physical and mental health for women;
    • Budgetary and institutional measures dedicated to securing maternal health;
    • Other programs and activities undertaken to secure maternal health with results;
    4. Consider the declaration on the state of maternal health in Africa as a continental emergency and to take appropriate regional actions;

    5. To those member states of the African Union that have not already done so, to urgently ratify the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;

    6. To member states that have already ratified this protocol to immediately undertake measures for domestication, including the amendment of internal laws to conform with the provisions of the Protocol;

    7. To develop programmes aimed at drawing attention to the negative impacts of maternal mortality on women in Africa and future generations of Africans;

    8. To civil society organisations in Africa to work in collaboration and develop partnerships to:
    • Conduct research on maternal mortality in respective African countries;
    • Work in collaboration with governmental agencies to develop effective country strategies for securing the right to maternal health;
    • Ensure the participation of communities and women groups in the formulation of programs and activities aimed at reducing maternal mortality;
    • Monitor the implementation of programs aimed at reducing maternal mortality;
    • Advocate for accountability by governments to their respective obligations in reducing maternal mortality and securing the right to maternal health;
    • Advocate for the ratification and domestication by African states of the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa without reservations.
    Done in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 24th November 2008.

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