Issued by Department of Health SA
The two-day Special Session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Health in Mozambique, Maputo was attended by Ministers and representatives from all 46 AU Member States from 21-22 September 2006.
The Minister of Health of South Africa Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang also participated in the discussions.
The Plan is premised on Sexual and Reproductive Health and includes, among other things, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, management of sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS.
While recognising the need for an emphasis on sexual and reproductive health, the Plan encourages all countries to review their plans against this action plan to identify gaps and areas for improvement.
During the session of the review of the AU Plan of Action, Minister Tshabalala-Msimang, while accepting the Plan in principle, motivated that the importance of nutrition should be an identified parameter as it was fundamental to good health.
The Minister of Health of South Africa felt that nutrition needed its own strategy and indicators for safe motherhood and management of childhood diseases.
Dr Tshabalala-Msimang was supported by the Minister of Health of Ghana, who said: Optimum nutrition plays an important role in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Nutrition is responsible for boosting the immune system.
The Minister of Health of Ghana added that nutrition was a cross-cutting issue and should be included in the curriculum of health workers in Africa, as they had not recognised its importance adequately.
The ultimate goal of the AU Plan of Action is for African Governments, civil society, private sector and all development partners to join forces and redouble efforts to ensure safe passage to motherhood. It was stressed that unless all parties worked together, successful implementation of the Plan would be compromised.
Minister Tshabalala-Msimang emphasised that African Governments could also improve the lives of women by empowering them to make informed choices about their own health, without excluding their spouses, partners and families.
The worse crime we can commit as a continent is to let women die from child bearing. Child bearing should be a lovely experience .Let us make the path smooth for those who entrust their lives to us, said Minister Tshabalala-Msimang.
Outlining South Africa's achievements in the improvement of women's health, the SA Minister of Health told the other Ministers that South Africa had seen a reduction in maternal mortality from 150 per 100 000 in 1998 to 124 per 100 000 in 2004.
The reduction could be attributed to improvement of the health systems, and improvement of access to the basic social services and basic antenatal care, as well as to the implementation of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act in South Africa.
Compared with other countries, South Africa has done well in reducing maternal mortality. The maternal mortality was recorded to be 414 and 1212 per 100 000 in Kenya and the Central African Republic respectively.
The African Ministers of Health agreed that the challenges of sexual reproductive health should be addressed in a broader context of development as women were worst hit by poverty.
Contact: Charity Bhengu @ 083 678 7424