Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Talking and listening to youth a crucial step in preventing HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, and more

Despite the advances in treatment, keeping the world’s nearly one billion young people from becoming infected with HIV in the first place represents the most realistic way to curb the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Many committed professionals have designed policies and programmes to help adolescents protect their sexual and reproductive health. Yet in doing so, they rarely ask themselves whether they listen to young people first.

Guttmacher Institute and nine partner organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa embarked on a research study to find out whether the next generation is well protected. The study reveals that across Ghana, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Uganda young people cited fear, shame and embarrassment as their main reason for not going to health clinics and hospitals for sexual and reproductive health care, despite a stated preference for formal health services.

The years between ages 15-20 are marked by a tremendous shift in sexual behaviour, hence the need for young people to access reliable information and nonjudgmental interaction with adults. The study showed that parental monitoring of teenage activities (including their friends) is not of any use if they do not first talk to them about unsafe sex and its implications. One of the most intractable challenges is for adults to accept the reality that adolescents are or will soon be sexually active and therefore need information about how they can protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

By Ambia Hirsi
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Monday, 28 April 2008

Protecting the next generation

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

Recommendations and policy implementation strategies resulting from the study done in four African countries on the realities of the sexual and reproductive health of young people were presented yesterday at the on-going ‘Youths Deliver the Future’conference.

According to the study titled "Protecting the next generation" carried out by the African Population and health Research Centre, in Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Bukina Faso, many more young people are sexually aware, while the older ones are becoming sexually active before marriage.

As such, abstinence until marriage is not a message that resonates with many adolescents. When they have to seek sexual and reproductive health services, the study discovered that they prefer going to professional centres rather than family or community gatekeepers. Cost and embarrassment are major barriers to seeking services. Unintended pregnancy was found to be of more importance to adolescent females than HIV infection.

Mandatory sex education is advocated and this education should be started early, at least during the last two classes in primary schools. To ensure the effectiveness of this, there would be a need to insist on mandatory schooling for youths.

Religion plays an important part in the lives of youths and as such, there is a need to work with religious bodies to propagate the

The study recommended among others that:
• Programmes should accept the reality of adolescent sexuality and work to de-stigmatize sexual activity among older un-married adolescents.
• Make services for adolescent quite low, ensure confidentiality and non-judgmental services besides expanding health facilities to meet the needs of the most vulnerable youth
• Target journalists in outreach and new research studies, programme and policy initiatives
• Promote condoms for the prevention of pregnancy, and not only for HIV prevention.
• Promote services to cater for out-of –school youths.

By Nnenna Ike

Investing in Young People at 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

African governments should urgently invest in programs that focus and enhance the health and development of young people says experts at the uniquely designed international conference on Young People's Health and Development that opened on Sunday in Abuja, Nigeria.

The three day conference brought together an assembly of researchers, academicians and policy makers in a series of interaction and knowledge sharing to promote and better prepare the youth for the new world.

The conference dubbed "Youth Deliver the Future" Investing in Young People's Health and Development: Research that Improves Policies and Programs, seeks to find solutions to various problems facing youth.

These problems include lack of access to education, health and information services, increased HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases, early marriages, unintended pregnancies and death from unsafe abortions, drug abuse, mental illnesses, death in road crashes, and acquiring poor nutritional and exercise habits among others.

Speaking during the opening ceremony held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria's First Lady Hajia Turai Umar Yar'Adua in a speech read on her behalf by the Minister of Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal, said to reduce the risks young people are faced with and promote their positive development, nations and societies must invest in young people more than ever before.

The First Lady said young people hold the key to the future and the slogan of this conference, "Youth deliver the future" is therefore an apt one.

Mrs Yar Adua noted that the youth who will effectively deliver on the future is one that has been adequately prepared for the future and one in whom the society has sufficiently invested in to ensure maximal development and provide relevant opportunities to optimize his or her potential.

"Without proper development of young people there will be no future development anywhere" she emphasized.

She reiterated the need to optimize youth development investments through evidence-based policies and programs.

"Today the world has the largest number of young people ever recorded in history -approximately two billion people between the ages of 10 to 24, most of whom are in Africa and Asia, therefore the need to confront the challenges facing young people in various areas of development has never been greater".

She said the substantial increase in the number of young people globally presents more opportunities than challenges and added that equipping this energetic and technologically-minded group with the best of resources offers opportunity to move the world forward like never before. She said investing in youth will help the world achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDG's).

She hoped the conference will enable the world to commit themselves to the new development of the future generation. She further reiterated her government's renewed commitment to the health and development of young people as evidenced by the recent launch of a new National Policy on Health and Development of Adolescents and other Young People in Nigeria, and increasing investment in related programmes.

Minister for Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal said there is need to take all necessary measures to invest in young people's health and development so that Africa can enjoy the demographic bonus of this age group.

The conference is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health John Hopkins University in partnership with Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University of Ibadan and Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awololo University.

By Redemtor Atieno
Kenya freelance journalist

‘Youth are the best investment in the future of the nation’

Dr. Lauri Laski, Head of Adolescents and Youth, UNFPA, talks about the positive impact that youth have on society at the 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference.

What did UNFPA bring to the ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference?

UNFPA brought young people from around the world to the conference. This is very important for the conference agenda. Young people are after all a dynamic force for social change, and can advocate on behalf of marginalized youths. This can achieve a lot. Internationally UNFPA sponsored five people, and in Nigeria we sponsored 47 people.

What are your impressions of the conference so far?

I think the conference is a great idea. It is the first international conference that focuses on adolescent health research with a focus on reproductive health. If we can learn from this conference and support the development of research on adolescents and convince investors to invest more in young people, it would be a great achievement. Youths are the best investment in the future of the nation, as they are healthy and fresh workers.

What do you feel should be the outcomes of the conference?

We need to look at the research agenda of the conference so that African universities can do operations research and evaluate their own adolescent health programs. This allows the universities to become self sufficient in evaluating their adolescent health programs. This is an opportunity for Africa—the number of youths is very large, and many are living in poverty. Building adolescent health programs is a way to break the string of poverty that has captured families for generations. We need to invest in the most vulnerable populations, particularly young girls. We need to ensure that girls are put into school and given lifelong skills to enter labour markets and boost the national economy. Look at China and South Korea—they are investing a lot in young people and it has made a positive impact there!

What knowledge should youth delegates take away from this conference?

Youth can learn about successful interventions and best practices for adolescent health programs. Our youth are great links between researchers and policy makers. They can communicate results of research and advocate for more funding for adolescent health programs within our government policies. They can pressure their governments to put more funds into poverty prevention plans and to build strategies and policies in support of adolescent development.

By Amanda Hale

Nations should take advantage of demographic dividends

There is an expected increase in the population of young people globally, with many nations having a significantly higher number of people of the working age who would be mainly young people. With this in view, researchers are urging countries to strategize to use the demographic dividends that would accrue to their country.

This information was presented by Professor Amy Tsui of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at a Pre-conference training for journalists attending the ‘Youth Deliver the Future Conference’. The Pre-conference training was organized by Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

According to her, African countries should try harder to ensure the judicious use of public resources to cater for the health of the people, especially youths and young people, who would make up the country’s workforce. Though every country has competing needs if adequate resources are put in place now, some of the health, education and poverty problems being encountered now due to the present demography of the nation would be alleviated.

To ensure that upcoming African economies reap the demographic dividend of their youthful generation, these strategies were advocated: increasing female enrollments and labour force participation, introducing changes in technology and institutions to raise agricultural productivity while increasing land conservation, developing and implementing a more effective family planning policy.

By Nnenna Ike

FG pledges to invest to optimize youth potentials

The Youth Deliver the Future Conference 2008 holding at the Nicon Luxury Hotel Abuja opened yesterday with the representative of the Nigerian government reiterating its commitment to increasing and improving programmes for the actualization of the development of the youth in Nigeria.

In the opening speech, Dr Hassan Lawal, representing the First Lady and the Minister of Health and the minister of Labour said, ‘The path to a glorious future for our world and the achievement of our collective development vision as represented in the Millennium Development Goals lies in massively and strategically investing in young people’s development.’ According to him, the government of Nigeria’s commitment had been exemplified with the recent launch of the new ‘National Policy on the health and development of Adolescents and other young people in Nigeria’ and looks forward to the conference outcome.

Professor Oladosu Ojengbede, Chair of the National Steering committee of the conference stated that the conference was designed to assemble policy makers and researchers to present results of studies from around the globe which all aim at improving the environment for optimizing the great potentials of youths and young people. His words, ‘Youths make up about 40% of the nation’s population our youths, the poor reproductive health indicators of youths is unacceptable and a challenge to human intellect.’ The conference aims at deliberating and unveiling solutions and interventions that would promote adolescent health globally and in Nigeria.

While welcoming participants to the conference, Professor Amy Tsui, Chair of the International Steering Committee expressed the hope that the conference would bring about tremendous knowledge to help harness the investment that lie in the youth population of every nation.

Goodwill messages came from the Bill and Melinder Gates Foundation, World Bank, World Health Organization, Packard Foundation, UNFPA, USAID, youth ambassadors and other Development partners.

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

By Nnenna Ike

Conference reveals the who, what, when, why and how of adolescent health programs

International representatives from World Health Organization, World Bank, Youth Coalition, and United Nations Population Fund Agency spoke on the urgent need to promote adolescent health and development during the opening ceremony of the ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ in Abuja, Nigeria yesterday.

Jane Ferguson of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, reflected on the evolution of adolescent health over the last 20 years. Twenty years ago, most research was focused on the why of adolescent health—on why the global policies should reflect adolescent issues such as HIV/AIDS and too-early pregnancy among youth.

‘While regrettably [the why] is still needed, particularly for convincing national level policy makers, people are much more aware of the need to focus on adolescents,” said Ferguson. She cited the MDG indicators on HIV and reproductive health as areas that provide the world with vision and a sense of urgency for adolescent issues.

For the who aspect, the conference will focus on the different groups of adolescents around the world, such as girls and boys, young and older adolescents, married adolescents, and adolescents who are living in particularly vulnerable circumstances. “This is good because programmatically, it is very important to be as specific as possible about what one does differently [for these groups],” said Ferguson.

The conference also provides abundant attention to what needs to be done for adolescents. Some sessions would be on overall education, sex education through school and mass media. Others would be focusing on models of health service delivery tailored to meet adolescents’ needs, as well as programs to support parents of adolescents.

Perhaps the most significant in the conference are the increasing efforts to assess the when and the where of adolescent programs, in order to assess the impact of programs on adolescents’ attitudes and behaviours.

Ferguson’s words: “Unless we can be clear about the results of programming for adolescents, as well as the costs of these programmes, we will not be able to persuade the decision makers to allocate the investments needed for sustained programming.”

She concluded by saying that to get adolescent health on the global agenda we will not only have to be able to make a compelling case, but to be able to demonstrate how adolescent health programs are “do-able.”

“We are confident that the discussions over the next days will clarify the challenges we face in improving policies and programmes for adolescent health and development in countries, and persuading others to do this now,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson promised that the John Hopkins’ ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference would move away from the why and focus more on the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how of adolescent health.

By Amanda Hale

Investing into young people’s health; quotes to ponder on

Young people have again attracted the attention of the world with the ongoing international conference on young people’s health and development. The opening ceremony of the conference under the theme ‘youth deliver the future,’ offered yet another volley of wonderful speeches punctuated with quotes for delegates to ponder once they return to their respective countries.

The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Hajia Turai Umar Yar’adua, made an opening address that “the substantial increase in the number of young people globally presents us with more opportunities than challenges. Equipping this uniquely energetic and technologically minded population group with the best of the resources offers the best opportunity to move our world like never before. This is an opportunity we dare not miss; for the consequence of failure is too costly to contemplate.”

But the First Lady was not yet done. “To reduce the risks young people are exposed to and promote their development, nations and societies need to massively and strategically invest in young people’s development more than ever before,” she added.

From the First Lady’s speech it was apparent that there is need for more investment of resources – including financial ones - in young people’s programmes. Financial resources always present a big challenge to youth programmes as often times once the funding taps are closed, everything comes to a halt. But representatives of several development agencies that have been funding youth programmes offered a ray of hope, which policy makers and government officials from developing countries can take advantage of.

“The United States Agency for International Development, in collaboration with the Nigerian Government is committed to investing in the lives of the Nigerian people and worldwide through our youth programmes and interventions,” said USAID’s Dr Alh. Abdullahi Mawaida.

Representing the World Bank, Ms Elizabeth Lule said, “We stand ready to finance programmes that work for the benefit of young people and their families, communities and nations. Investing in young people’s health and development and looking at the evidence to improve policies and programmes is central to reducing global poverty and promoting economic growth…”

However, she stressed that there is need to focus more on programmes that have worked for scale-up. This indeed saves resources from being wasted on programmes that do not work.

By Kakaire Kirunda
Daily Monitor,Uganda

Hope for the future

Youths in developing countries have been given hope for a brighter future. Several speakers at the opening ceremony of the international conference on investing in young people’s health and development yesterday outlined the need to focus on the health and development of young people.

“To reduce the risks young people are exposed to and promote their positive development, nations and societies need to massively and strategically invest in young people’s development more than ever before,” said Hajia Turai Umar Yar ‘Adua, Nigeria’s First Lady.

According to the December 2007 African journal of Reproductive Health, Africa has a high burden of ill-health associated with adolescent reproductive health. However, there is little understanding of what needs to be done to reduce the magnitude of this problem.

Susan Rich of the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation outlined the Foundation’s commitment to making strategic investments in the health and development of young people, which will yield returns in future. Since 1995, the Foundation has invested $129 million to improve information and services to protect young people from HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy.

It is good that society is starting to recognize the vulnerability of females. A study on protecting the next generation in sub Saharan Africa, which will be presented today reveals that adolescent females in sub-Saharan Africa tend to have sex at an earlier age than males. This puts them at a risk of unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other adverse outcomes. The study was carried out in Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi. Nearly 60% of females have had sex by 18 years compared to 40-45% of the youth according to the study.

These findings, although alarming, will go a long way in tickling governments and policy makers particularly in the developing countries, where the biggest number of youth is based, to come up with realistic policies to ensure a bright future for the biggest composition of the global population.

Like different speakers noted yesterday, we cannot have a bright future without addressing the reproductive health concerns of the youth.

By Anthony Bugembe
The New Vision, Uganda

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Journalists train on issues affecting adolescent health

With 20 per cent of the global population between the ages of 10-19, today's youth are making a critical impact on the society around them. By the time a young person turns 16, he or she may have moved out of their parents' house, had their first job, had their first sexual experience, had their first child, or even entered their first marriage. The transition from childhood to adulthood is becoming increasingly more demanding as adult expectations and responsibilities are put straight into the hands of adolescents.

“Adolescence is a turbulent time,” said Amy Tsui of John Hopkins University, USA, during her presentation on the demographics of young people around the world at yesterday's Journalist Seminar on Health and Development of Young People, in conjunction with the John Hopkins' 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

But the training revealed that journalists can help adolescents to make a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood by raising positive awareness for counseling and mentorship for youth, sexuality education, guidance and resources for youth, and a lance of peer counseling and parent-to-child communication among other stories.

During a story-generating exercise led by Akin Jimoh of Development Communications Network and Josephine Kamara of Internews Nigeria, Josephine Kamara urged journalists to narrow in on issues of adolescent health and development at the conference by finding people to share personal stories that reflect important issues, such as peer
pressure or sexual violence.

“It will be tempting to cover every presentation and speaker at the conference, but that is impossible,” she said. “Just get the specifics for your topics and tell the issues like they are.”

Journalists then brainstormed a number of topics including abstinence/sex policies, poverty, teen pregnancy, unemployment, media pressure/influence, communicating with adults, discussing taboo issues with parents and teachers, demographic stories, and the effectiveness of current youth programs.

Apart from the brainstorm session, the training also had various presentations on 'Key issues facing young people' from Family Health International, 'HIV Stigma and Discrimination and the Media' by International Center for Research on Women, and 'Finding and Using Data on Youth' by Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Amy Tsui concluded the training by saying, 'I'm not a journalist, I'm not a writer, but I have a strong belief in the importance of what you do.'

By Amanda Hale

Youths are the solutions to the problems of this generation----Prof Amy Tsui

In a brief interview at the pre-conference training for journalists at the ongoing 'Youth deliver the future Conference' in Abuja, Nigeria Professor Amy Tsui, of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA reiterates the importance of assuring the health of youths in this dispensation

Question: The Youth deliver the future conference starts today, with the theme ‘Investing in young people’s health and development’. Why is the focus on youths?
Today there are more adolescents than at any time in history. It is estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, half of the population is under the age of 15, and less than 5% is over 60. There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 10 to 19. This group makes up about 20% of the global population (WHO, 2002) so youths are the solution to the problems of this generation. Important lifetime consequences come about from the things that this group of people do and there are demographic dividends to be accrued from the percentage of the burden placed on this group. It is for this reason that issues concerning their health is of paramount importance. This conference seeks to share research results on studies on youths from across the globe and present these results such that policy makers would be presented with ideas and best practices, so that at the end of the conference, it would hopefully bring a paradigm shift in policy making and implementation, and monitoring for best practices.

Question: Why was the conference venue chosen to be in Africa?
The youth conference is one in the series of biannual conferences organized by the John Hopkins School. We have had a conference on Visco Vaginal Fistulae (VVF) and one on integrating HIV into reproductive health policies. This is the third one and is being hosted in Africa because of the percentage of young people in the continent, and because in some areas of health such as mental and sexual health, adolescents suffer disproportionately. The consequences of poor health at this age also stretch into the future, affecting their prospects and those of their children. In addition, health-related behaviors, such as smoking, eating habits, sexual behaviors, and help-seeking behaviors developed during adolescence often endure into later life.

Question: How can African countries take advantage of the opportunities given by the expected Demographic dividend?
African countries should try harder to ensure the judicious use of public resources to cater for the health of the people, especially youths and young people. Every country has competing needs but if adequate resources are put in place some of the problems encountered now due to the demography of the nation would be alleviated. Besides, increasing female enrollments and labour force participation, introducing changes in technology and institutions to raise agricultural productivity and increasing land conservation, coupled with developing and implementing a comprehensive population policy that includes more effective family planning would ensure that upcoming African economies reap the demographic dividend of this generation.

By Nnenna Ike

Friday, 18 April 2008

Now that my baby is gone...

‘When Tolu was fifteen days old, I noticed that she was breathing in a strange way – making little grunting noises. I called my husband and we both went to the hospital, only to be told by the doctors that my baby had a defective heart. The surgery took place two days later. But instead of getting better, Tolu started looking frail and this alarmed me. She went in for the second surgery, and by now she had become too weak to undergo the third one.

The doctor could not close the hole in Tolu’s heart and after two frightening weeks, Tolu died. All our hopes and dreams were dashed. I would wake every day with my mind full of my baby – so my Tolu is dead! No day went by without my asking “Why?”

Why me? Why my Tolu? It took a while before I could understand and accept that it was not my fault. With lots of support from my husband, relatives and friends, I’ve come to live one day at a time.’ --Words from a grieving mother.

Losing a pregnancy can be very devastating, no matter when it happens or what the circumstance. Experiencing pregnancy loss can bring about a profound change in the mother. It is normal to feel shock, grief, guilt, anger, depression, and a sense of failure. Or, the mother may feel withdrawn and moody, especially if she had told people that she was pregnant before.

But with time comes healing. It is important to give yourself time to heal. There is no need for the mother to pressure herself into getting past the sadness quickly. Although it may seem painful to talk about, sharing the story about the loss will allow the woman to feel less alone and will help her heal. Understanding and support may come from unexpected people.

Also, it is good to remember that men and women grieve in different ways. If your partner doesn't seem to be affected by the loss as deeply as you are, understand that men and women grieve differently. While women tend to express their feelings and look for support from others, men tend to hold their feelings inside and deal with loss on their own. Likewise, men often feel they need to take care of their partners by remaining strong. Sharing one’s feelings and needs gives both parties the freedom to experience the loss in their own way.

Many women who experience pregnancy loss go on to have successful pregnancies. Once the pain of their grief subsides, the women and her partner can talk about whether to attempt another pregnancy and, if so, when she’d like to try again. Another pregnancy may yield feelings of sadness for her earlier loss — but it may also inspire hope for the future.

By Adanma Ike

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Global report on MNCH released today

The Countdown to 2015: Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health report was released today in Cape Town, South Africa, during the opening ceremony of the international ‘Countdown to 2015’ conference, in which delegates from around the world discussed the major headways and obstacles to achieving global maternal and child health by 2015, in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5.

The report investigated the maternal, newborn and child health status in 68 key countries around the world, and found that few are making progress in reaching women and children with clinical care services, such as having skilled attendants at delivery or treating children for malaria. Postnatal care is also an important gap in the first week after childbirth when mothers and newborns are at highest risk to illness and complication. Under-nutrition is an area of little or no progress, contributing to more than one-third of deaths in children under five annually. Weak health systems and a lack of data collection and dissemination processes to make timely data more readily available for planning and implementation of MNCH programs are also some of the key obstacles to achieving MDG goals 4 and 5 by 2015.

As such, the report calls for action from policymakers, media practitioners, health workers, activists, and government figureheads to take these crucial steps towards achieving maternal and child health by 2015:

• Sustain and expand successful efforts to achieve high and equitable coverage for priority interventions, including immunizations, vitamin A supplementation, family planning services, and antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care.

• Focus on the priority period within the continuum of care, from pre-pregnancy through 24 months—especially around time of birth.

• Strengthen health systems, focusing on measurable results.

• Set geographic and population priorities—especially targeting sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—and stick to them during MNCH program planning.

• Prioritize programs for equity—programmatic efforts to address inequities must be supported by strong monitoring and evaluation.

• Monitor and evaluate locally-driven implementation research, and act on the results to deliver best practices for each country in regards to MNCH.

For the complete report on ‘Countdown to 2015’ you can visit www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports. Also stay tuned to Development Communication Network’s Media Deliver Now! blog site for further conference updates.

By Amanda Hale

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Global ‘Countdown’ to achieving MNCH begins this week in South Africa

A new report on Tracking progress in maternal, newborn and child survival: Countdown to 2015 will be launched this Thursday, April 17, at the International ‘Countdown to 2015’ Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

The conference, which takes place on April 17-19, offers a range of opportunities for the global community to bring issues of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) to the foreground of international debate and policy-making, and to release groundbreaking information on the current state of the world’s progress towards reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5. The event is predicted to be an important milestone following a wave of recent international advocacy efforts to mobilize global commitment and actions in MNCH.

Organized around a series of plenary sessions that focus on intervention coverage, equity, health systems, human resources and aid harmonization, the conference will place special emphasis on parallel sessions to present country case studies and success stories. The main objectives will include disseminating the most recent information on country-level progress in achieving health coverage with interventions for reducing mortality among mothers and children, promoting media visibility for the Countdown to 2015 Report, raising awareness of key decision-markers on MNCH issues, and providing a forum for the development of partnerships dedicated to maternal, newborn and child survival efforts.

With these objectives in mind, this year’s conference intends on making headway toward increasing coverage of key MNCH interventions in countries comprising 97 per cent of the global burden of maternal and childhood deaths. In Nigeria alone about 6 women die every hour from pregnancy-related complications, while infants and children are dying by the thousands every day. The conference is a way to address these tragic figures across the nation and to come up with evidence-based approaches to eliminating such needless deaths among women and children around the world.

‘Countdown to 2015’ takes place in conjunction with the 118th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Cape Town, giving conference organizers and delegates a chance to sensitize over 1,000 Parliamentarians to MNCH issues.

Please visit Development Communication Network’s Media Deliver Now! blog to view the upcoming ‘Tracking progress in maternal, newborn and child survival’ report and to read further updates from South Africa.

By Amanda Hale