Representatives from 19 French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa countries at the workshop in Ouagadougou.
With the MDG deadlines now firmly on the horizon, the issue in 2012 should no longer be about reducing maternal deaths but about eliminating this phenomenon worldwide, especially in developing countries.
UNFPA and its partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, held a regional workshop with representatives from 19 French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa countries in Ouagadougou in June to consolidate the achievements, share experiences and increase the chances of eliminating maternal deaths in their countries. It came as a follow-up to the support provided by the three international agencies to the 19 government ministries in their efforts to institutionalize the review of maternal deaths in their respective health systems since 2003.
Each participating country made individual commitments to a specific action they intend to implement to improve their performance in the elimination of maternal deaths. The participants also agreed to set up a mechanism for monitoring regional institutions and networks of experts to ensure that the steps would be followed rigorously. This mechanism will be led by UNFPA. "UNFPA has complete faith in this new approach," said Dr. Nestor Azandegbe Pepe.
They agreed to revitalize activities relating to the regular review of maternal deaths as well as data collection and analysis on maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa, within a maternal mortality surveillance system. Such a system should include a mechanism for identifying and reporting cases of maternal deaths, and analyzing the underlying contributing factors and constraints in order to set up an effective prevention system with clearly defined national guidelines, tools and regulations.
The workshop provided an opportunity to clarify all aspects of maternal death surveillance, to identify constraints to meaningful progress, draw lessons, and propose action plans to boost revitalized maternal death reviews at the country and sub-regional levels.
The workshop created a forum for discussion and experience sharing, as various studies have shown that all countries that have successfully eliminated maternal deaths based their systems mainly on endogenous initiatives, enhanced by external expertise. The representatives from the 19 countries that participated in the workshop were given a unique opportunity through presentations, group work and discussions, to access information and strategies for future interventions.