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No country sends its soldiers to war to protect their country without seeing to it that they will return safely, and yet mankind for centuries has been sending women to battle to renew the human resource without protecting them. -Fred Sai, former President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

Pregnancy is the one of the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 in developing countries. Maternal and child mortality remains a big problem for many countries in Africa with young women even more vulnerable. However, almost all maternal deaths can be prevented, as evidenced by the huge disparities found between the richest and poorest countries. The lifetime risk of maternal death in industrialized countries is 1 in 4,000 in comparison to 1 in 51 in countries classified as ‘least developed.’

Why We Cannot Wait

Mothers are the cornerstones of healthy societies. Not only do they give physical birth to new life, they give moral and intellectual guidance to children who will become productive members of society. A society where mothers are not valued and protected is is one that will slowly diminish. Through prioritizing the welfare of mothers a ripple effect occurs for the health of newborns and children.

Time for Action is – NOW!

Maternal health is a matter of life and survival. This issue needs to be addressed from a rights based approach falling under the broader scope of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Citizens need to hold governments accountable for the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of health services available for women and youth by ensuring:

  • Universal access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights including modern contraceptive services for all young people regardless of sexual orientation, sex, race, ethnicity and geographic location
  • Access to safe and affordable, quality, nondiscriminatory, stigma free, comprehensive safe abortion care and post abortion care
  • Universal access to evidence based, age-appropriate context specific comprehensive sexuality education that enables adolescent and young people to understand and make informed decisions about their sexuality and plan their lives.

As Heads of State continue the discussion around a transformative post-2015 development agenda, it is critical that African governments galvanize political will, mobilize resources and prioritize maternal health in the next development framework. Then and only then, will we have future that we are proud to present to future generations.

Cover photo credit: hdptcar, Flick Creative Commons

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