The 15th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union (AU) will be held in Kampala, Uganda from 19 to 27 July, under the theme "Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa". In an interview with New African, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Bience Gawanas, explains why this theme was chosen and its significance, bearing in mind there are just five years to go before the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline.
New African: Health in general is an important aspect of Africa's development. So why will the Heads of State be discussing "Maternal, infant and Child Health and Development in Africa" at next month's summit?
Commissioner Gawanas: The AU's health programme has been very, very broad and we really focus on issues such as HIV and Aids, malaria, TB and other communicable and non-communicable diseases, we have also focused a lot on strengthening health systems and we have produced quite a lot of policy instruments over the years. For example, the Africa Health Strategy, the Africa Regional Nutritional Strategy and so on. But we have realised that something was amiss in our health strategies--and that is the state of maternal, infant and child health, which are issues absolutely connected to the MDGs. We have seen many reports which say Africa is falling behind in terms of realising the MDGs, especially numbers 4 and 5 which pertain to women and children, and Africa and the AU especially is now bringing this matter to the fore in a broader way than we have done before.
Q: How are you going to do things differently this time?
A: We have built up a lot from a campaign we launched in Addis Ababa in May last year, called the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), which is an African-led, and African-owned programme. CARMMA is multi-faceted: it is about advocacy; about social mobilisation; about strengthening and harnessing political will; about coordination and harmonisation. This was decided because many a time, our efforts do not have an impact because they are so diverse and not really coordinated. Our slogan with CARMMA is "Africa Cares: No Woman Should Die While Giving Life".
Through CARMMA, policy instruments and decisions on maternal and child health have been brought on to the continental and global agenda. But the AU has also recognised that there is a very long road between policy and its implementation. CARMMA therefore, allows the AU the opportunity to interact...