Guest blogger: Dr. Gwyneth Lewis on the Maternal Mortality Campaign

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By: Dr. Gwyneth Lewis, MHTF Advisory Group

Welcome to Dr. Gwyneth Lewis, our first guest blogger, and a member of the MHTF Advisory Group. Click here for her bio. Thanks for the post, Gwyneth! -The MHTF Team.

I was honoured to represent the MHTF at a meeting held between the Maternal Mortality Campaign, headed by Sarah Brown, and the European Commission in Brussels on the 14th May 2009. Representatives of several key member organisations of the MMC were present, including the MHTF, WHO, UNCEF, WRA, the Gates Foundation, Women Deliver, the ICM and several UK professional organisations. Other key members of the delegation, and a firm and vocal supporter of the campaign, were Ivan Lewis a Government Minister for the UK Department for International Development, and Tore Godal, special advisor to Prime Minister Stoltenberg of Norway.

The purpose of the meeting was advocacy; to share the urgency of the crisis facing the worlds’ mothers and newborns with Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, and his colleagues, in order to seek their support for the campaign and to seek any further help they might have been able to provide. The meeting lasted for two hours and enabled a wide-ranging discussion and exchange of views of some of the key issues that will need to be addressed if meeting MDG 5, is in any way to become a reality.

Sarah started by giving another of her excellent summaries of the stark facts and figures, tempered with an understanding of the background health, social and societal determinants for good maternal health. She was then supported in this by many of the MMC members. The Commissioner gave a sympathetic and entirely supportive reply, detailing the support they had provided for women’s health before and since the Cairo declaration including women rights to their own reproductive health , access to modern contraceptives and maternity services. He restated it was unacceptable to have so many mothers dying of preventable causes and also assured the MMC that the EC supported gender equity and rights and was actively working against the discrimination of women.

The meeting then held a discussion about how best to pressure the G8 summit in Rome in July and discussed three key areas on which to lobby. These were:

1. Aiming to have an agreed maternal health indicator which should become part of the high level key reportable indicators of existing initiatives at global level. This will promote country ownership and will improve health system support and response.

2. Addressing the health care worker gap to ensure more trained professionals of all cadres, who are competency based trained.

3. Considering advocacy for fund raising for facility based birth kits which could be used by health care professionals for both “normal” and complicated deliveries. There was, however, no clear agreement on this.

The meeting closed with agreement that every possible effort should be made to advocate hard at the G8 summit and dates for further meetings would be circulated shortly.