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By African Union Commission (AUC)
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HARARE, Zimbabwe, May 25, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Advocate Bience Gawanas has said that the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) shows that the African Union cares about every woman and child in Africa. It shows that “Africa has a human face, represented by women and children”, the Commissioner told participants at the “Accelerating Action for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality in the Area of HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” meeting being held in the Zimbabwean capital. The meeting, holding from May 24-25 was organised by GlobalPOWER® Network Africa, (whose President is Zimbabwe's Deputy Prime Minister Ms Thokozani Khupe) in collaboration with the African Union and UNAIDS.

Presenting a progress report on CARMMA to the women parliamentarians, leading African women entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and development partners attending the meeting, Commissioner Gawanas highlighted that CARMMA's slogan is “no one should die while giving life”. 37 African countries have so far signed on to CARMMA.

Sharing the critical factors for success of CARMMA, the Commissioner highlighted that it is important to have political commitment. She cited the example of Rwanda, where she said, the President is personally committed to push for improvements in women's health. Another success factor is the involvement of traditional, religious and community leaders. The legal and policy environments as well as availability of resources are also necessary in the success of CARMMA, Advocate Gawanas said.

In terms of monitoring progress, the AU Commissioner informed the participants that the AU has conducted research in 26 of the 37 countries that have signed up to CARMMA. Data was collected from member states using the CARMMA Implementation Progress Assessment Tool. 73 percent of those countries said they have roadmaps for implementation of the programme and many others have planning tools and progress monitoring benchmarks. 58 percent have developed national maternal mortality audits since the launch of CARMMA in 2009.

Commissioner Gawanas identified the challenges that were identified by member states. These are: inadequate funding; weak health systems; low demand for health care services; political instability; weak M&E /HMIS systems.

In the survey, member states also identified the most effective strategies for implementation of CARMMA from their perspectives. Those highlighted by Commissioner Gawanas were partnerships, strengthening of health services delivery, communication;funding and accountability.

CARMMA was launched continentally in May 2009 during the African Union Conference of Ministers of Health in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is an initiative of the African Union Commission which addresses the high pregnancy- related deaths in Africa. CARMMA's main objective is to accelerate the availability and use of quality health services including those related to reproductive and sexual health which are critical for reducing maternal mortality. The campaign also focuses on child mortality because of the impact of maternal mortality on children and families. Children who lose their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mother's death, than those whose mothers are alive.

CARMMA's main focus areas are:

Enhancing political leadership and commitment at national and community level to let them know that everyone has a role to play in reducing maternal mortality

Accelerating actions aimed at the reduction of maternal and associated infant mortality in Africa

Ensuring that best practices of countries that have significantly reduced maternal mortality are replicated

Generating and providing data on maternal and new born deaths