Tackling sexual and reproductive health

Tackling sexual and reproductive health

With poor sexual and reproductive health a leading killer in Africa, the health ministers of 48 African countries have agreed on the Maputo Plan of Action to ensure “universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services in Africa by 2015”.

The Maputo Plan of Action (PoA) for the Operationalisation of the Continental Policy Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (2007- 2010) resulted from a special session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Health, who met in Maputo, Mozambique in September 2006.

The plan recognises the links between women’s status, reproductive health, and social and economic development that were first highlighted at the international level by the UN-convened International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994.

It identifies South-South co-operation as a key strategy to attain both the goals of the ICPD and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are nine action areas:
• Integrating HIV, sexually transmitted infection (STI), malaria, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services into primary health care (PHC);
• Strengthening community-based STI/HIV/AIDS and SRHR services;
• Repositioning family planning as a key strategy to attainment of the MDGs;
• Positioning youth-friendly SRHR services as key strategy for youth empowerment, development and well-being;
• Reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion;
• Increasing access to quality safe motherhood and child survival services;
• Increasing resources for SRHR, in line with the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases (2001) pledging 15% of national budget allocation to health;
• Achieving SRH commodity security ; and
• Establishing monitoring, evaluation and coordination mechanisms.

African Union and European Commission representatives work together with regional authorities, national governments, civil society and international partners to mobilise resources, advocating policies and strategies to achieving these goals.

Achievements

Major milestones have been attained, with African ministers not only endorsing the plan, but moving ahead towards its goals. At least twenty-two countries developed Maternal and Newborn Health Road Maps, and five countries are in the process of development.

Several countries report progress in scaling up the links between SRH and HIV/AIDS; imple¬menting and expanding family planning, passing laws to protect women against violence and criminalising harmful practices against women.

However, implementation varies between countries and between goals, largely due to limited financial and human resources, as well as competing resources and demands more efforts are needed.

Sustained efforts are needed if the overall goals are to be achieved. The European Commission is working with the African Union Countries and international partners to get recommitment from African governments for a follow-up to the plan after the current plan ends.