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EAC MPs to push for a universal Health sector

11 November 2014, 14:50 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – A group of East African Community (EAC) MPs have committed themselves to enact, advocate and push their respective governments to implement laws that seek to make universal access to healthcare a reality in the region.

The group, dubbed the East African Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Health Population and Development, established in 2007 and whose members are drawn from the General Purpose Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) said the region’s health sector is in pathetic condition leading to loss of many lives, particularly mothers and children.

The Forum’s chairperson from Burundi, Martin Nduwimana, said despite the witnessed economic progress in sub-Saharan Africa, the region is yet to fully address challenges facing the health sector despite the impending accountability by every country on the anticipated global Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

“The region is still grappling with unacceptably high levels of mortality among women, particularly around the time of delivery and newborns within the first year of birth. It is time to join the world to take stock of progress in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and forge a way forward for the post 2015 development agenda,” said Nduwimana.

He cited from the research findings conducted in developing countries revealing that pregnant mothers are at high risk of death during delivery, and suggesting that “the probability that a 15-year-old women will die eventually from a maternal cause is 1 in 38 in sharp contrasts to 1 in 3700 among women in developed countries.”

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“About 40% of deaths among children under the age of five continue to needlessly die within the first month of life as if newborns should be sentenced to death immediately after delivery,” exclaimed Nduwimana.

“What is frustrating is the fact that the causes of those maternal and childhood deaths are well known and can be prevented by a host of easily available and affordable interventions,” he added.

However, he asserted that interventions to problems facing the health sector can only be championed by supportive political momentum and actions such as availing new technological equipment to the population, including those living in inaccessible remote areas.

Some of interventions the EAC Inter-Parliamentary Forum members agreed to push through legislations for a better health sector include;

- Development of an effective mechanism for all medical equipment such as medicines to meet the set international standards in addition to improving cross border transactions and unrestricted flow of medical products with harmonized essential medicine list.

- The adoption and implementation of zero-tolerance-to-stock-out policy for the 13 life saving non-taxable laboratory gadgets among other reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health commodities, regional support to enhance local manufacturing and pooled bulk procurement of essential health products, and all EAC partner countries to establish maternity and children hospitals in highly populated areas as per the UN guidelines.

- Strengthening of collaborations between health care institutions, universities, research and private institutions to promote knowledge and expertise sharing, increased public financing of strategic health information management systems in the region, adoption and systematic implementation of an integrated set of policies and interventions to enhance investments and outcomes in health, education for economic growth and job creation.

However, Nduwimana said these interventions will be attained depending on the urgency, priorities and their nature of implementation through the respective EAC member governments.

“The role of the Parliament in addressing commodity security challenges and other policy and systems bottlenecks and the above mentioned strategic focus areas cannot be over emphasized,” said Nduwimana.

The Forum’s members met in Nairobi for their 7th meeting and scheduled their 8th meeting for Dodoma in Tanzania.

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