14- 17 April 2014 ¦ Luanda, Angola
African Ministers of Health meeting at the first Joint African Union (AU) / WHO Conference of Ministers of Health commit to ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths. During this meeting, Ministers, debating on African health priorities described the preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths on the continent as a continental catastrophe. While Africa accounts for 10% of the global population, it bears a disproportionate burden of mortality and ill health, including approximately half of global maternal and child deaths.
Ministers noted that progress has been made, but more remains to be done to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals; the Sustainable Development Goals – which should be based on a Post 2015 development agenda that has health at its core; and the African Development Goals for 2063.
Africa is not poor, and it needs to take responsibility for the health of its populations; was a recurring theme. The meeting highlighted the importance of malnutrition and stressed that action on nutrition should be taken in order to improve maternal, newborn and child survival. The meeting called for better regional exchange of best practices with a view to finding African solutions for African health problems. There was also a call for more leadership and accountability of ministers of health and their governments and more coordinated support from partners whose numerous efforts tend to increase the burden on ministries and hamper effective use of resources.
To end maternal, newborn, child and adolescent mortality,( i.e. reduce maternal mortality to less than 50 per 100 000 live births, less than 20 child deaths per 1000 live births, and less than 10 newborn deaths per 1000 live births by 2035); Ministers commit to:
- Ensuring that health of women and children in Africa is guaranteed through the full implementation of policies , strategies and initiatives that promote elimination of preventable maternal , newborn and child deaths
- Ensuring access to essential package of maternal, newborn and child health interventions, including nutrition interventions, particularly for vulnerable populations
- Scaling up investments in human resources for health, particularly in the training, deployment and retention of staff for better provision of quality RMNCH services
- Removing financial barriers with a view to achieving universal access to health and reproductive, maternal, newborn and child services
- Work with other ministries to develop multisectoral coordination mechanism to oversee investments in the critical social, behavioral economic and environmental determinants of health, in particular girl’s education , gender equality women’s empowerment and male participation towards ending preventable maternal , newborn and child deaths
- Strengthening tracking and monitoring systems and disease surveillance and response, especially maternal and neonatal death audits, surveillance and timely response as well as strengthening civil registration and vital statistics
- Work with civil society organizations to strengthen the role of communities in facilitating access to services and in accountability.
This commitment follows discussions and engagements on ensuring universal access to quality services, setting up a regional African agency aimed at regulating medicines and setting up a center for disease control.
The joint AU/WHO conference of Ministers of Health, following a request from Ministers, has been institutionalized on an annual basis as a way of avoiding duplication and limiting the number of meetings, with a view to taking over the remit of the current separately conducted WHO Regional Committee Meetings and the AU Conference of Ministers of Health.
Ministers also commit to being held accountable for the decisions made during this joint meeting through the specification of timelines to commitments and regular reports by the AU and WHO.