ambassadorAminaSAliOn May 7th, 2009, the African Union launched the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The campaign was launched under the theme, 'Africa Cares: No Woman Should Die While Giving Life.'

CARMMA is consistent with the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, along with other crucial health policies in the African Union geared towards AIDS awareness, TB and malaria services.

Among the many policies that exist, it is my belief that a call to action is in order to rally behind CARMMA, a campaign geared towards satisfying most if not all of the goals set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) plan. The campaign speaks specifically towards creating a society where a healthy mother is the norm and not the exception.

The implementation of this plan is important because around the world, a woman dies every minute from pregnancy-related causes. Globally, there are more than 500,000 maternal deaths per year, nearly half of which take place in Africa alone.

The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is as high as 1,000 deaths per 100,000 live births in Africa, an epidemic that only continues to worsen. One in every sixteen African women faces the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and delivery-related complications, particularly those women from marginalized communities and living in poverty.

Needless to say, urgent action must be taken. Efforts are being made, but the growing number of deaths through the years clearly indicates that more needs to be done.

A healthy mother can go a long way towards addressing our MDG goals. Healthy mothers are better able to feed, educate, and empower their children. Improving maternal health increases the chances of delivering healthy babies in addition to gains to the health of women in their reproductive years. Educating mothers also means the addition of a strong household figure to raise awareness of and combat against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases as well as advocate for sustainability of the family's surroundings.

The international community lends its support to the efforts of leaders who are improving our nation's health. Far too often, such support is limited to the domestic level. The time has come to leverage such efforts at the continental level, as well as to call for accelerated maternal and child mortality reduction.

We are constantly hearing about what needs to be changed. The struggle comes when deciding how to make an impact in such areas. A new regional approach must be taken towards improving health planning and management. The startling shortage of qualified healthcare workers requires immediate attention, beginning with the availability of schooling and training of doctors and nurses rather than relying solely on the use of traditional birth attendants who lack the training and equipment to deal with serious birth complications.

Raising awareness is a start; but solutions to the problem are complex and will require dedication. Policies alone will not be the saving grace for these women, but the measures being taken to achieve the MDG's can give hope.

With the knowledge that a healthy African mother is the keystone to achieving the MDG's, steps must be taken to address preventable deaths and health concerns. More accessible and comprehensive antenatal and postnatal care must be available to women, as well as education about the warning signs of complications. These solutions will help to identify problems early and prevent them from escalating to mortalities.

Contributions of the African Union Mission to the US and other initiatives like South-South cooperation are working towards the implementation of CARMMA, show the effect that efficient diplomacy can have on this project if it goes beyond mere advocacy and works to bring about change.

South-South is working on an initiative to spread knowledge and expertise throughout developing countries to allow them to become independent of aid from developed countries. This will help to relieve international strain and address solutions within individual countries. Such a plan is beneficial as the solutions can be shaped to deal with the individual needs and resources of the country as opposed to a blanket solution that fails to address all aspects.

Spreading this knowledge requires the support of those who have access to the knowledge and the funds to facilitate its dispersal. Through efforts to bring about these changes, the lives of women and their children will be changed. Giving birth will no longer be a dangerous endeavor filled with fear and worry but will be an opportunity for joy and love.