Countries urged to allocate more resources to reproductive health programmes

Countries urged to allocate more resources to reproductive health programmes

Harare, 5 October 2004 - The third meeting of the African Reproductive Health Task Force was officially opened Tuesday in Harare, Zimbabwe, with a call on African countries and the international community at large to allocate more resources to reproductive health programmes with a view to stemming the tide of maternal and child deaths.

"African health policies, including global health policies, have for a long time overlooked the need to allocate adequate resources to reproductive health programmes…and this has contributed to the massive numbers of maternal and newborn deaths", Zimbabwe's Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, told the meeting.

"Women, producers of humanity, (and) a critical resource for the development of Africa cannot continue to die needlessly from preventable causes," Dr Parirenyatwa said in a speech read on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Elizabeth Xaba.

He added that "at the very least", African countries should ensure the availability of skilled attendants who are able to recognize early signs of pregnancy or childbirth-related complications, provide emergency obstetric and newborn care, and make an effective and timely referral to a facility where complications can be appropriately managed.

Dr Parirenyatwa called on health care professionals working in the area of maternal and child health to work together, develop codes of conduct with professional accountability for the provision of quality care and defend the right to health of the communities they serve, especially pregnant women and their newborns.

Speaking in a similar vein, the WHO Country Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Evaristo Njelesani, urged health care professionals to work as a cohesive team. "Protecting turfs might not provide the much needed additional skills to save lives"' he said, adding "Africa needs to accelerate and strengthen reproductive health interventions to save mothers, the producers of our continent's human resource."

In his remarks, the chairman of the Task Force, Prof. Wole Akande, made an impassioned plea to partners to support countries to operationalize the "road map" developed in February this year to guide countries in the provision of skilled attendance during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-natal period at all levels of the health care delivery system; and to strengthen the capacity of individuals, families and communities to improve maternal and newborn care.

In a message to the meeting, the Director of Programme Management at the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), Dr Luis G. Sambo, announced that maternal and child health would be one of his priorities when he assumes office as WHO Regional Director for Africa on 1 February 2005.

Dr Sambo was nominated as Regional Director-designate by the WHO Regional Committee for Africa on 3 September to succeed Dr Ebrahim Samba who retires in January next year.

In his message, delivered by the Director of the Division of Family and Reproductive Health at AFRO, Dr Doyin Oluwole, Dr Sambo stated that no nation could develop without paying attention to its women and children.

He warned that if there are no changes resulting in improved maternal health over the next decade, the Region could witness 2.5 million maternal deaths and 49 million maternal disabilities resulting in 7.5 million child deaths, with productivity losses of about US$45 billion.

Dr Sambo commended the Task Force for the many achievements it has recorded within only three years of existence noting that that the "road map" jointly developed by WHO and partners working in the area of maternal and child health was already being implemented in 16 countries in the Region.

For further information: 

Media contact:   Technical contact:

Samuel T. Ajibola

Tel: +47 241 39378

In Harare: 091 231 405

E-mail: ajibolas [at] 


Dr Doyin Oluwole 

Director, Division of Family and Reproductive Health 

Tel: +47 241 39478

E-mail: oluwoled [at]