MDG 5, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND MATERNAL HEALTH IN AFRICA
But Nigeria and Kenya are not alone; other African countries are not far off.
Nonetheless, as the countdown to 2015 begins in earnest, these countries
need to be reminded that, “[m]others . . . represent the well-being of a
society and its potential for the future. . .” and “[t]heir health needs cannot
be left unmet without harming the whole of society.”267 The apparent need
to forestall this domino-like effect is the crux of all the investments
deployed by Western governments toward making pregnancy and childbirth
safe in their respective territories.268 This is a great lesson that countries in
Africa should imbibe.269
Positioning Africa on target to reduce 1990 MMR by seventy-five
percent by the year 2015, the central task of this paper, revolves around two
major strategies that are human rights oriented (that is, operationalization
through human rights principles). The first involves serious commitment to
addressing the challenges posed by hemorrhage; early marriage and teenage
pregnancy; unsafe abortion; shortage of SHP; illiteracy and so forth.270
Second, the remedial measures identified and analyzed in the preceding
sections should be integrated into maternal health frameworks throughout
the region. This integration would require the adoption of strategies aimed
at promoting literacy;271 self-reliance to stave off poverty; improving access
to timely health services; and, disseminating knowledge about reproductive
and sexual health, including contraceptives and family planning. Non-state
actors (CSOs) have a particularly useful role to play in this process.
Through litigation; engaging in mobilization campaign; ensuring
in Nigeria, 19, 31-32 (Oct. 2007), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/nigeria1007/nigeria1007
267. WORLD HEALTH REPORT 2005, supra note 10, at xi.
268. WORLD HEALTH STATISTICS 2013, supra note 34, at 80. These investments are
yielding great dividend as evident in the low level of MMR in these regions. In 2010, the
MMR in Europe and the Americas were 20 and 63 per 100,000 live births whereas the MMR
in Africa hovers at 480, the worst anywhere in the world.).
269. Achieving the kind of result recorded in the America and Europe would involve
incorporating those aspects of the strategies these regions adopted that are transplantable (in
terms of feasibility) to developing countries into the national health policies of countries in
Africa, starting with making PHC the cornerstone of health systems in the region. Id.
270. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS REPORT 2010, supra note 28, at 35.It is
especially critical that adequate resources are invested in educating women as a key part of a
comprehensive maternal health initiative. Women with some education are known to enjoy
better health. Adolescent birth rates, for instance, decrease with a higher level of education.
Adolescent birth rates (defined as the number of births to women aged 15 – 19 per 1,000
women) are highest among women without education – at 207, compared to 139 and 48 for
those with primary education and secondary or higher education respectively.
271. Literacy, particularly health education, is an important component of individual
empowerment in terms of knowing how to shield oneself from diseases (the preventable
types) and, where ill already, knowing how to obtain care.