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Keynote Address given at the Official Launch of CARMMA in Seychelles,Dr. Erna H. Athanasius MD FAAP Ambassador for Women and Children’s Affairs Seychelles

26.11.2013

 

Designated Minister, Mr. Vincent Meriton

Honourable Ministers

Dr Agathe Lawson, Regional Director UNFPA - Members of the National Assembly

Members of the Diplomatic Corp,

Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocol observed

As the Seychelles Ambassador for Women and Children and as a specialist in children’s health, it is indeed an honour and a singular privilege to have been asked to address this gathering, for the official launch of the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal and Infant Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) here in Seychelles, as we join 37 of our fellow African countries that have already done so.

CARMMA, was first conceived, it had as its main objective, to hasten the availability and use of accessible quality services related to sexual and reproductive health, relevant to the reduction of Maternal and Infant mortality. Hence, as an integral part of the implementation of the Programme of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, it was thereafter launched as an ‘African Commitment’ on the 7th May 2009, for accelerated action towards a common goal – the reduction of maternal, neonatal and child mortality in Africa by 2015.

CARMMA has since become an example of a successful continental initiative with national ownership.

It is indeed fitting to commend the Government and Ministry of Health for taking this African commitment forward, by hosting this event in Seychelles as we move towards reinforcing CARMMA in our country.

Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) remains a critical index of our development as a Small Island Developing State. Sustainable and meaningful development cannot be recorded, if the health of our women, basically half the population of the Seychelles, is not accorded the deserved priority, in the long list of priorities in health. However, in acknowledging that the health status of our women and children has greatly improved throughout the past decade, it is incumbent upon us to sustain these achievements set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2007-2015.

We are blessed that Seychelles does not have a high burden of Maternal Mortality but on the continent, one in every sixteen women face the risk of dying due to pregnancy related complications. It is in response to this terrible trend that the African Union took steps to address the matter. From 2005 at the 2nd Ordinary Session of the conference of African Ministers of Health, the Framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and rights was adopted. The following year, the Maputo Plan of Action for the implementation of the above SRHR was adopted. Thereafter, at the African Union Conference of Ministers in 2009, CARMMA was officially launched and is considered an advocacy platform of the Maputo Plan of Action.

Then, at the15th Ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union, Heads of State and Government adopted a set of Actions on maternal, newborn and child health, underscoring the need to make a concerted effort to deliver on results. It marked the beginning of a determined and sustained effort by the leadership of our Union to address the unacceptably high rates of maternal and child morbidity and mortality.

The Heads of State were unambiguous that the time for declarations and commitments was over and it was time for action! The Maputo Plan of Action was extended to the year 2015.

According to studies in 2010, the health of women in Africa was in dire straits, with most of the 500,000 global maternal deaths annually, occurring on the continent. UNFPA and WHO warned that without action, over 2.5 million maternal deaths, 2.5 million child deaths and 49 million maternal disabilities would occur before 2020.

As a small island nation and a member state of the African Union, Seychelles has made considerable progress with regards to improving maternal, newborn and child health. We have succeeded in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals, thanks to our country’s strong political leadership, sound policies and investment in the macro economy, improved service delivery and social wellbeing of the country. They have been, and will remain, key contributors to Seychelles’ positive development in all areas. Indeed, CARMMA focuses on the 4th, 5th MDG, Reducing Child Mortality and Improving Maternal health, and influences the 6th MDG Combatting HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

Today we are launching CARMMA in Seychelles, and it is right that we look at the indicators of the 4th and 5th MDG – i.e. reducing by two thirds the under-5 mortality rate and reducing maternal mortality by three quarters from 1990 to full achievement in 2015. Where is Seychelles with regards to this? Here the statistics speak for themselves:

Ten years ago, (2003) the under-5 mortality rate was 19.36 per 1000 live births, and the infant mortality rate was 16.69 per 1000 live births. Last year, (2012) the under-5 mortality rate was 12.77 per 1000 live births and the infant mortality rate was 10.33 per 1000 live births. This is reflective of progressive positive achievement for Seychelles.

As for the maternal mortality rates in 2003 per 100,000 live births, it stood at 66.76 with just one maternal death registered. Last year, there were Zero registered maternal deaths and the maternal mortality rate was at zero per 100,000 live births. Seychelles is moving forward again with renewed impetus to sustain ZERO maternal deaths.

It is gratifying to note that we have and are still taking action, as evidenced by the progress recorded so far. However while we celebrate our progress, we must also reassess our challenges and renew our efforts in order to ensure that our collective aspirations as Seychellois, become a reality. There cannot and should not be, any complacency.

The Seychelles Government is committed to improving our health care system and the portion of the government budget allocated to Health remains the largest, testament to the importance and priority given by government, to ensuring the health and sustainable development of the Seychellois people. In the 2000 Abuja Declaration, African governments committed to allocating 15% of their national budgets to health. Last year our Ministry of Health was allocated 11% of the National budget and although that was 4% less than the recommended we continue to move in the right direction.

Improving our healthcare includes improving our maternal, neonatal and child care which are crucial to the survival of our nation. In line with the MDG’s, like our fellow African countries, the Seychelles Government has adopted the policy to attain a two-third reduction in Child mortality rates and a three-quarter reduction in maternal mortality rates by 2015 – our commitment to achieving the MDG.

Education, effective health services and access to family planning are important elements in empowering young girls and women, as well as saving their lives, and that of their children - our future.

If we look at the recommendations of the Africa MDG Steering Group from 2008 for the 4th and 5th MDG, where they call for commitment to build effective primary health systems, Seychelles is not too far off at all: we already have in place, a comprehensive primary Health care system that is free and accessible to all; we have established universal access to immunization and key child survival interventions; we have universal access to emergency obstetrical care, with skilled midwives and other reproductive health services. Nonetheless, we recognize we still have much more to do.

But the Ministry of Health cannot do it alone. In order to optimize results delivery, we need to adopt an integrated approach to reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality within the overall continuum of care. The impact of our combined efforts shall be much greater than the sum of our individual efforts.

Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, amongst various steps to be taken to sustain our gains during the CARMMA campaign are the following:

• The need to strengthen community-based interventions and to step up the education of teenage and young mothers, mothers-to-be and those already with families.

• The need to strengthen the present capacity of the health system to support the provision of Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health services (MCNH). We need to continue to ensure all our mother- to-be receive the care they need to be safe and healthy throughout pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

• The need to strengthen our human resource capacity for delivery of the MNCH as well as nutrition services.

• The need to strengthen systems for monitoring and evaluation of MNCH and nutrition services, interventions and outcomes.

Our pregnant mothers hold our future. Each healthy birth is a step in securing a healthy and sustainable future. Any maternal death is one too many, no matter how great the statistics look.

Improving maternal health and neonatal mortality requires everyone’s commitment and effort as they are inextricably tied to economic development, gender equality, social interaction, and poverty, HIV and Aids, Welfare of young people, family planning and education.

We are fortunate as a country that we have the political backing to ensure that the lives of women and babies count, as is evidenced by our health system which provides for free universal healthcare from birth to death.

Seychelles is on the right road and today by the launch of this AU initiative, we must commit to step up our pace to further improve the maternal, neonatal and child health care services country-wide.

Improving our mothers and infants survival rates; requires a concerted effort by all and a strong social mobilization involving all segments of the society, including our men, our community and religious leaders amongst others. This is necessary for the advancement of women’s health.

In Seychelles, where motherhood is celebrated, and child birth is considered a natural and normal process, let us remember that maternal and child deaths are mostly preventable, and investment in the health of women is an investment in economic development.

By launching CARMMA today, Seychelles joins with our fellow African nations who have already launched this important Campaign and we say, on behalf of our Seychellois women and children:

“SEYCHELLES CARES: No Woman Should Die While Giving Life!”

 

I thank you.

 

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