08 June 2010
Help stop maternal deaths in Africa

The vast majority of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth are the poorest and most marginalised in society.

These are women denied access to healthcare, subjected to female genital mutilation and early marriages and refused the right to decide whether and when to become pregnant.

In most cases, maternal deaths could be prevented.

The African Union (AU) has put in place policies to tackle maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa, such as the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other related infectious diseases.

These commitments have the potential to change the lives of millions of women and girls across the continent. However, more needs to be done to realise these commitments.

Ahead of the AU Assembly from 25-27 July, Amnesty International has called for maternal health issues to be given the attention they deserve.

Petition to the African Union on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity in Africa

Dear Head of Government:

We welcome the African Union’s (AU) decision to focus on maternal health in Africa during the upcoming Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government (AU Assembly), to be held in Kampala from 25 to 27 July 2010.

Through its global “Demand Dignity” campaign for the rights of people living in poverty, Amnesty International focuses on the human rights violations that underlie the persistence of maternal mortality and morbidity. The vast majority of women who die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth experience are the poorest and most marginalised. They die because they cannot access adequate healthcare or make decisions about whether and when to become pregnant. In most cases, maternal deaths could be prevented.

Amnesty International has carried out research on the human rights violations leading to maternal mortality and morbidity in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. In the two reports it has published, Amnesty underscored the barriers women face when accessing maternal healthcare – barriers which constitute violations of women’s human rights – and pointed out the lack of accountability for and monitoring of these human rights violations.

Despite several policies and initiatives adopted by the African Union to tackle this issue, there are gaps which continue to exist in the realisation of the commitments made by African States, and in light of the upcoming Summit, we urge you to give the elimination of preventable maternal death and ill-health the attention it deserves, notably by addressing the following points we believe to be crucial:

  • The need to combat discrimination and end harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilations and early marriages, that aggravate women’s risk of maternal mortality and morbidity
  • The need to improve access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all African women
  • The need to address financial barriers to maternal healthcare for the poorest
  • The need to improve quality of maternal care to avoid preventable deaths
  • The need to reinforce accountability and monitoring to give people redress in case of violations

We believe the African Union can make a difference in respecting African women’s right to health and in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa. We count on you!

Please sign Amnesty International’s petition below to the African Union and circulate it to your friends, families and networks

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