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AU Summit Panel Focuses On Water, Sanitation To Meet MDG Targets In Africa

African countries should focus on preventing diarrhea – the biggest killer of children in Africa – in order to achieve Millennium Development Goal targets, Yunia Musaazi, WaterAid’s East Africa policy advisor, told delegates at the 15th African Union (AU) Summit, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

“Everyday, 2,000 African children die from diarrhea. These deaths are preventable by providing safe water and maintaining sanitation,” said Musaazi, who participated in a panel with other representatives from civil society groups. The panel called for leaders to provide better health services, according to the news service.

“African leaders should address issues relating to sanitation and water as one of the major components in reducing maternal and infant mortality in the continent. An expectant mother needs to deliver from a clean environment. Even after leaving the health centre, she needs to live in a clean environment with clean water for her and the newborn baby,” Musaazi continued. “Safe sanitation also reduces other leading causes of child deaths, such as under-nutrition and pneumonia,” she said (7/20). 

WaterAid recommends that African leaders “should ensure that at least 0.5 percent of their respective GDPs are allocated to sanitation, as committed to in the eThekwini Declaration on Sanitation (2008),” Xinhua reports (7/22). Ahead of the AU summit, WaterAid and the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW), recommended in a press release that a “Special Rapporteur on WASH should be appointed to report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), building on the work of the U.N. Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation” (7/12).

Maternal And Infant Mortality

As the summit continues, VOA News examines maternal and infant mortality in Africa – the summit’s main theme. The article features quotes from African Union Commissioner of Social Affairs Bience Gawanas, who has traveled the continent repeating the mantra, “No woman should die giving life.” VOA News writes: “Gawanas has won the attention of Africa’s male-dominated leadership, partly by enlisting their first ladies to promote a women’s and children’s health care initiative known as CARMMA.”

“Issues of maternal mortality need the urgent action of our heads of state if we are to reverse the negative image of women dying on our continent,” according to Gawanas. “CARMMA will need money to ensure trained health workers are available to help in complicated births,” the news service writes. “But Commissioner Gawanas says CARMMA is not about throwing money at a problem. It is about starting at the grass roots and respecting Africa’s widely varying cultures. ‘The difference: involve traditional leaders, involve religious leaders. Let us start a social movement for women and children in Africa,’ she said. ‘When a woman does not have access to a clinic it is not just a medical condition, it is also based in our culture, in gender issues within our societies. And I believe some of these factors do not need money. It needs a commitment by all stakeholders.'”

Some of these issues will be addressed during a panel discussion on CARMMA at the summit. “Summit host, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will join the panel, along with Gawanas and other renowned experts,” VOA News reports (Heinlein, 7/21).

VOA News looks ahead to the upcoming leadership summit. “A top official with Uganda’s Foreign Ministry says several African heads of state and government will begin arriving Friday and Saturday to participate in the African Union (AU) heads of state summit scheduled to begin this Sunday,” the news service reports.

“Analysts expect the escalating conflict in Somalia as well as a possible troop surge in that restive country to be high on the agenda for discussion. … Observers say the official theme for the summit which is ‘Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa’ has been overshadowed by the heightened security following last week’s Uganda bombings” (Clottey, 7/22).

Rwanda Lauded For Women’s Advancement

The New Times/allAfrica.com reports that the “African Union (AU) has recognised efforts by the Rwandan government to empower women by giving them access to decision-making positions in the country’s political landscape.”

“Rwanda is the leading country in Africa which has discovered the role and significance of women as far as development in Africa is concerned. If you see their participation, especially domination of women in parliament, it makes us proud as women since we were anciently taken as inferiors,” said Litha Musyimi-Ogana, director of women, gender and development directorate at the AU. “African women will remain lagging behind if they don’t come out to fight for their rights through indulging in their self development and their countries,” Musyimi-Ogana said (Kabeera, 7/23).

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