EAC Mulls Project to Boost Maternal, Child Health

Press Release | East African Community (EAC) | June 6, 2012

The East African Community is set to launch before the end of this year a project to boost maternal and child health in the region. The project, named the Open Health Initiative, is envisaged to promote innovative interventions and enhance access to data and information for better results, better tracking of resources and stronger oversight of results and resources for women's and children's health nationally and regionally, all geared towards achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

The EAC Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera while opening a first preparatory meeting today that brought together delegates from the Partner States and various international and regional collaborating partners said the target was for the Open Health Initiative to be officially launched by the 14th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State due November 2012.

Amb. Sezibera noted that the EAC Partner States all face similar challenges in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially with regard to MDGs 4 and 5 that focus on maternal and child health.

He observed that the latest regional statistics show that average reductions needed were 65% to achieve MDG 4 (reducing child mortality) and 61% to achieve MDG 5 (reducing maternal mortality ratio) as of 2010 and hence decried the fact that “under-5 mortality rates are still too high for our region”.

Nonetheless, the Secretary General hailed the various initiatives undertaken so far to address health service delivery such as President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative; the G8 Summit Muskoka Initiative; and the UN Secretary General’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative; but observed that while “all these initiatives are laudable and critical, they have to be nationalized and regionalized in order for women and children to access cost effective services”.

He highlighted the importance of instituting accountability mechanisms in delivery of health services that encompass both resources and results, and added that it would be helpful if Partner States learned from each other and adopted best practices from among themselves.

Delegates from the EAC Partner States were unanimous in affirming that the OHI would go a long way in improving maternal and child health while collaborating partners that included WHO, USAID, GIZ, UNFPA, NORAD and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) all expressed their readiness to be part of the project.

Notes to Editors

• The world is making important progress in reducing the number of women and children dying from preventable diseases and ill health.

• Of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the two specifically concerned with improving the health of women and children are the furthest from being achieved by the target date of 2015.

• With very few exceptions, efforts to reach these Goals in the East African Community are not on track. Improving the health of women and children contributes extensively to economic development, which in turn contributes to better conditions for women and children.

• The improvement in the health and overall quality of life and social well being of the women and children of East Africa depends very much on the provision, affordability and access to good health services to the general population at large.

• Maternal mortality and morbidity remain a serious concern in the EAC. The most recent data for each country’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) was estimated at 360/100,000 live births for Kenya, 454/100,000 for Tanzania, 375/100,000 in Uganda, 487/100,000 for Rwanda, and 500/100,000 for Burundi. These rates are high by any standards.

• Against this background, calls for greater efficiency and effectiveness have increased to ensure the limited resources available to improve the health of populations of the Partner States can be maximized.

• It is in this context that the ‘Open Health Initiative’ was conceived. In light of the above, three themes emerged as the most relevant for this particular Initiative:
1.    Accountability for Results and Resources;
2.    Performance-Based Financing; and
3.    Innovation.

• Given the EAC’s increasing cohesion and integration and given how relevant MDGs 4 and 5 are for the region, it was felt most appropriate to launch the ‘Open Health Initiative’.