Mothers Matter

Over View of Global Maternal Health Conference-2013


January 15-17, 2013, over 800 experts in maternal health from about 60 countries came together in Arusha International, Conference Centre Tanzania, to participate in Global Maternal Health Conference-2013. They presented the latest evidence on improving the quality of care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, to share data and insights, to learn about new developments and innovations, to identify knowledge gaps that still need to be filled, and to reach consensus on local, national, and global strategies for eradicating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity by improving the quality of maternal health care.
The Conference was convened by the Maternal Health Task Force, the flagship project of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with Management and Development for Health (Dar-e-Salam, Tanzania), and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, UNICEF, and UNFPA.
The conference was inaugurated by His Excellency Jakaya Mirsho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and key note address was given by Dr. Agnes Bingwaho, Minister of Health, Republic of Rwanda. Other speakers at the opening ceremony were Dr. Mariam Claeson from Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Dr. Ana Langer Director, Maternal Health Task Force, Harvard School of Public Health. Around 450 papers and 150 posters were presented. The conference consisted of 3 plenary sessions, 104 parallel sessions and 5 poster sessions. Around 450 papers and 150 posters were shared in the conference. All the papers and posters were divided in to 5 Tracks.
The theme of the Track 1 was Program approaches to improve the quality of maternal health care.

The theme of Track 2 was Measurement of the quality of maternal health care. Strengthening health systems for improving the quality of maternal health care was the theme of Track 3. Access to, and utilization of quality maternal health care under Track 4 discussed approaches to increasing access and utilization of maternal health services. Evidence-informed policy and advocacy for quality maternal health care was the theme of Track 5. This track also included a session on Evaluating Impact: Incentive for Institutional Delivery, wherein the author presented a paper on the “Impact of Janani Sishu Suraksha Karyakaram on promoting Institutional Deliveries in Jammu and Kashmir”.
The closing ceremony was presided over by Honorable Juma Duni Haji, Minister of Health Zanzibar and Guest of Honour was Mama Salma Kikwete, First Lady, United Republic of Tanzania. The key speaker at the closing ceremony was Prof. Mahmoud Fathalla, Chairman Advisory Committee on Health Research WHO, Eastern Mediterranean Region. The lecture given by Dr. Fathalla was the star attraction of the GMHC-2013. The speech given by Dr. Fathalla dwelt upon the regrets and the apologies to the women in not combating maternal morbidity and mortality and also on the promises and the capabilities that we have to address the safe motherhood issues. He reminded the audience that “mothers are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat, but they are dying because societies are yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving”. He, however, showed optimism that our dream of right to safe motherhood and quality of care will be fulfilled in days to come given the commitment shown by the new trusted younger generation and women power. In his own words, Dr. Fatahall said “For those of us who have been in his noble movement from the beginning, and who are now waiting for their exit from world stage, it is most gratifying to see infusion of new blood in the safe motherhood movement, with young generation taking lead. I will not be around when our beautiful dream of world where all women have their right to safe motherhood will come true. But I pin my hope on a trusted younger generation who will carry the torch forwards, and on the power of the women, backed by science, and the health profession, and supported by national commitment and the global community”.
At the end of the conference, participants supported the writing of a manifesto for maternal health based on the best available evidence presented at the conference, the lessons of safe motherhood from the past 25 years, and the more recent experience of the MDGs. The main contents of the manifesto read by Richard Horton , Editor in Chief The Lancet are reproduced as under:

1. The global health community must build on past successes and accelerate progress towards eliminating all preventable maternal mortality within a time-bound period. To this end, a new and challenging goal for maternal mortality reduction is needed within the SDG framework for the post-2015 era, one that is led and owned by countries not donors.

2. This maternal mortality goal must be broadened to embrace the progressive realization of political, economic, and social rights for women. One critical lesson from the history of women's health is that maternal health will not be improved to its full potential by focusing on maternal health alone.

3. The successful framework of the continuum of care must be redefined to make women more central to our notions of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health. The continuum needs to be more inclusive of so far neglected elements—e.g. quality of care, integration with HIV and malaria programmes, non-communicable diseases, and the social determinants of health, such as poverty, gender disparities, sexual violence, water and sanitation, nutrition, and transportation.

4. The global health community must devise a responsive financing mechanism to support countries in implementing their plans to reduce maternal mortality and improve maternal health outcomes.

5. A much greater emphasis must be put on reaching the unseen, on reaching women who are socially excluded thanks to culture, geography, education, disabilities and other driving forces of invisibility. If we are serious about redressing gender and access inequities, we have to ask fundamental and difficult questions about the nature of our societies and the value, or sometimes lack of value, we ascribe to individuals, especially women, in those societies.

6. The maternal health community must invite, include, and incorporate the voices of women themselves into writing the future of maternal health. Too often, women's voices are silenced, ignored, or reported only second hand. Women must be given the platform and power to shape their own futures in the way they wish.

7. For the mother, her newborn child is a precious and indissoluble part of her life and her future. Maternal health outcomes cannot be fully addressed without attacking the appalling global toll of preventable stillbirths and newborn deaths.

8. A critical gap that threatens the future health of women and mothers is the catastrophic failure to have reliable information on maternal deaths and health outcomes. This gap in measurement, information, and accountability must be a priority now and post-2015.

9. A tremendous opportunity lies in technology. Mobile and electronic health technologies must ensure that women are effectively and safely connected to the health system, from education to emergencies, referral for routine antenatal care to skilled birth attendance,. Empowerment is often an empty word in global health. But putting the right technologies in the hands of women offers a compelling opportunity to make empowerment of those women a reality.

10. Finally, we must fulfill all of these actions sustainably, which means universal access to high-quality health services, free at the point of demand, within a strong health system, supportive of the fully trained front-line worker— from family planning, to safe abortion, to emergency obstetric care, with respect for both providers and women.
Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda's Minister of Health, opened the conference in Arusha by looking back at the genocide that overtook Rwanda in 1994. "We believed in the promise of our future", she said. The maternal health community, a vital part of the movement for women's and children's health embodied in the UN Secretary General's Every Woman, Every Child initiative, also believes in the promise of a future for women and mothers. This manifesto is one small contribution towards that future.

Author is Sr. Research Officer Population Research Centre, University of Kashmir, and can be reached at

Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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