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AU Pre-Summit On Gender Concludes

The African Union (AU) Pre-Summit on Gender concludes Wednesday after three days of discussion about how African countries could improve progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targeting women and children’s health, the Independent reports.

“Losing a life of a woman or child is an indictment for Africa if most of these causes can be prevented,” said Bience Philomina Gawanas, the commissioner of social affairs for the African Commission. Gawanas said it was unfortunate that more had not been done to protect the lives of women and children especially because 18 African countries are due to celebrate 50 years of independence. “The African Union should not only be known for peacekeeping and observing elections, it should also value women and children’s lives,” she said. Existing policies, such as the Maputo Plan of Action 2006/7 and others are sufficient for improving infant and maternal health on the continent, she said.

Kassama Yankuba, director of the African Union Medical Center, said governments should stick to the 2001 Abuja Declaration, which requires countries commit at least 15 percent of their GDP to health (Makuma, 7/21).

But during the opening of the Pre-Summit on Gender, Gabriel Opio, Uganda’s gender, labour and social development minister, said his country was unable to allocate 15 percent of the national budget to health, New Vision reports.

“Prior to the making of the national budget, all ministries meet and propose their budgets. But in most cases, their budgets add up to 150%, beyond the total national budget share of 100%,” Opio said. “When we reconcile to 100%, we discover the money is not enough. So as much as we want to increase the national budget to the health sector, the funds are not there,” he continued, noting that there is “a lot of government support [for] maternal health.”

According to Opio, the government allocated about 260 billion shillings or about $115 million for maternal and reproductive health in the 2010/2011 budget (Womakuyu, 7/19). 

Meanwhile, the AU summit continues in Kampala, Uganda where African leaders are expected to address the recent suicide attacks by Somalia’s Shebab and are “expected to endorse a decision made earlier this month by the regional body IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) to send an extra 2,000 troops to Mogadishu,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Somalia’s seemingly inexorable descent into chaos and the rise of a group affiliated to Al-Qaeda that has proved its ability to strike beyond Somalia’s borders are likely to overshadow the summit’s official theme of maternal and child health,” according to the news service (7/21). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.