The African Medical and Research Foundation recently celebrated the American launch of its global campaign, Stand Up For African Mothers. The campaign aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015 to reduce maternal mortality in Africa by 25 percent. Stand Up For Africa Mothers is premised on the notion “that no women should die giving life and no child should be left an orphan due to lack of maternal health care.”
It is reported that 200,000 women die in Africa due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, due to lack of basic and accessible health care. AMREF, in an effort to champion the campaign, reported the following statistics: “According to Trends in Maternal Mortality 2000-2010… women in sub-Saharan Africa face a risk of one in 39 of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to one in 4,300 for developed countries
This reveals the plight of basic health care available in Africa versus that of developed countries. A notable patron of the Stand Up For African Mothers campaign, Graca Machel Mandela, expressed in a video played at the beginning of the July 19 launch that “women have been neglected.” Mrs. Mandela also stated that as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals, the goal to combat maternal mortality is “lagging in a shameful way.”
At the media briefing held at the Cornell Club, AMREF’s Director General,Teguest Guerma, expressed the pivotal role played by African women in their respective societies. Guerma reiterated, “African women are at the center of the social and economic development chain [in Africa].” She highlighted the three goals of the campaign:
- to train 15,000 midwives by 2015
- to create awareness of the campaign and the plight of maternal mortality in Africa through the symbolic nomination of Esther Madudu, a midwife and a representative from Uganda, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, and
- to encourage Africans to be active in their own health, expressing that “charity starts at home.”
The campaign trains midwives at three different levels, according to the specific needs of a given place: community midwives (18 months), enrolled midwives (two years), and registered midwives (3.5 years). In accordance with AMREF’s position as an African-led, community-driven, health development organization, the Stand Up For African Mothers campaign works from the ground up. It encourages rural women to seek health services so as to reduce preventable maternal mortality, doing so through the institution of midwives who are active members of their communities. This ensures sustainability for the campaign, as well as other AMREF initiatives.
In an interview with Africa.com, Dr. Guerma stated, “AMREF is there where no one else is.” AMREF, unlike many other health NGOs, is active in communities and seeks to find solutions to problems from within the community. She characterized AMREF as an interlocutor between the government and civil society.
Dr. Guerma also highlighted the importance of the support of people throughout the African diaspora. She emphasized that men are pivotal to the Stand Up For African Mothers campaign, because it is only through collaboration that this campaign will be successful. She said, “[W]omen are at the heart of communities and societies in Africa, [and] no one can deny this. Africa needs its women to develop. Because developing a woman, improving the health of a woman, is improving the health of the family, of the community and of the society.”