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Pushing to Reduce Maternal and Newborn Deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa

Luo Women (Kenya) , Photo: Jennifer James

According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. And 99% of maternal mortality occurs in developing nations. In fact, 800 women die every day from maternal health complications like hemorrhage and infections. To work towards the reduction of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, the Department of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission created the now three-year-old, continent-wide program CARMMA, or the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa. Recently, a new and improved CARMMA.org was launched that currently serves as a critical bevy of maternal health information and highlights its program, features interviews from top CARMMA officials, and provides resources and downloadable materials for health officials to use in order to achieve one of its key goals of positive maternal health and family planning messaging across the continent.

Currently present in 37 sub-Saharan countries, CARMMA is slated to open offices in Egypt, Gabon, Mauritius, South Sudan and Sudan. This is vitally important as there is no data for neonatal and maternal deaths in either Sudan or South Sudan, and Gabon and Mauritius have high maternal death ratios. One of the site’s most important features is its country scorecard where CARMMA has compiled vital data to frame the maternal health reduction plan, including ratios of neonatal and maternal deaths, contraceptive prevalence, ratio of health care workers to population, antenatal care ratios, and a breakdown of expenditures each country spends on health care. Each country also has its own dedicated page where the information can be found as well.

With a sharp focus on contraceptive use and family planning, CARMMA has created documents for download as public campaign materials to work to erase stigmas concerning women’s fertility choices. In fact, in an interview with CARMMA Commissioner Mustapha Kaloko he said, “There has been limited progress in west and central Africa with a prevalence of 9 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively. Nevertheless demand and utilization is still below the level required to facilitate the development objectives we desire as a continent.”

CARMMA’s new web site also includes interviews and updates about the continent’s maternal health and mortality crisis and recognizes those who champion improved maternal health outcomes such as Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, the first lady of Sierra Leone and Rose Mlay, Founder and National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Tanzania.

To learn more visit CARMMA.org.

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