Intended for healthcare professionals


African parliamentarians commit to prioritising maternal and child health

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 20 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6835
  1. Peter Moszynski
  1. 1London

The Pan African Parliament—the legislative arm of the African Union—has adopted a resolution urging speakers of the continent’s 54 national parliaments to prioritise the implementation of maternal, newborn, and child health programmes.

The Africa Public Health Parliamentary Network says this development marks a “significant milestone” in accelerating Africa’s progress towards the attainment of the millennium development goals on child and maternal health.

In the resolution, passed during the fifth session of the second Pan African Parliament held on 3-14 October in Johannesburg, South Africa, members endorsed the commitments made at the July 2010 African Union summit on maternal and infant health in Kampala. They reiterated that “maternal, newborn, and child health is critical to overall human and social development in Africa.”

They also called for high level parliamentary support to accelerate implementation of a plan for policy and budget support towards maternal, newborn and child health, agreed by chairs of finance and budget committees of national parliaments in October 2010.

Five senior members from each of the 54 African Union member states have pledged to work alongside speakers and relevant committees of national parliaments to implement the resolution.

The resolution integrates implementation of African maternal, newborn, and child health frameworks with the United Nations secretary general’s Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health, which was launched in 2010 to accelerate progress toward the achievement of the millennium development goals.

Rotimi Sankore, secretary of the Parliamentary Network, said, “We welcome this landmark resolution . . . which is a significant step towards African parliamentary action to help end the tragic annual loss of an estimated 4.2 million lives of African women and children.”

He added that the resolution “strongly complements” the African Union Commission’s Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa, which was launched in 31 countries over the last two years.

Carole Presern, director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, said that the resolution “demonstrates the vital and positive contribution that parliaments globally can make to saving and improving the lives of women and children, and in particular the commitment of African parliamentarians to their constituents.”

In 2001, African governments endorsed the Abuja declaration, committing 15% of their budgets to health. According to data provided by the network, at least 17 countries have now made firm commitments to raising health spending to the 15% target by 2015, but only one, Burkino Faso, has achieved this so far.

A significant number of countries, including Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Ghana, Niger, and Zimbabwe, have committed to introducing some form of free maternal healthcare.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6835