Africa: IPU Assembly Adopts Resolution On ‘Access to Health As Basic Right’
By Gloria Iribagiza
5 April 2012
New Times (Rwanda)
Nearly 650 Members of Parliament from over 120 countries are attending the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly that kicked off on March 31 and ends today, April 5, in Kampala, Uganda.
Pregnant women at a local hospital. They receive SMS’s telling them to come for a consultation.
Under the theme; ‘Parliaments and People: Bridging the Gap’ Rwandan delegates, including Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, President of Senate, were key speakers at several high-level discussions.
High on the IPU agenda is the health of women and children.
Dr Ntawukuriryayo, also a former Minister of Health, explained the progress of Rwanda in regard to the IPU resolution ‘Access to Health as a Basic Right: The Role of Parliaments in Addressing Key Challenges to Securing the Health of Women and Children’.
“Rwanda is committed to reduce maternal and child mortality and will continue to support this cause,” he said.
“We (Parliamentarians) are elected by people, and this means we have to know and understand their problems so that we can advocate for them to the government and also sensitise the public to prevent these challenges,” Dr Ntawukuriryayo said.
The Senate President cited the importance of increasing resource allocation towards health in the national budget. He said Rwanda’s parliamentarians should be able to assess all government programmes and ensure that maternal and child health is taken into account. This, he noted, would enable Rwanda to attain its commitment to MDG5 by 2015.
“The death of any mother affects us all in Rwanda. We have experienced the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi where we lost over a million lives and, as a result, we are doing all we can to avoid any loss, especially the lives of the mothers and children,” he said.
He said achieving success at reducing maternal and child mortality rates in Rwanda is a question of commitment. According to the Ministry of Health, 31 per cent of women undergo unsafe delivery while at home and in the absence of professional medical personnel. Rwanda’s maternal mortality rate remains at 383 per 100,000 live births and the country is committed to achieving MDG5 target of 275 per 100,000 births by 2015.
According to Dr Ntawukuriryayo, a former health minister, one strategy that Rwanda has used to achieve success has been working at community level, for example; using community health workers, building health centres and educating people on reproductive health. He said these are all cross-cutting issues, observing that maternal health is related to education, gender equity and economic growth.
“There is need for strong commitments at the whole line of leadership and we want all Rwandans and communities to be part of the process,” he said.
Additionally, Ugandan parliamentarian, Sylvia Namabidde Ssinabulya, argued that more has to be done by parliamentarians to ensure that progressive laws are implemented at grassroots level.
“Drafting bills and crafting amendments is not enough if they are not implemented. We can see the example of Rwanda that has managed to implement important amendments that benefit the population,” Ssinabulya said.
She cited Rwanda as a good example of how implementing laws and polices has benefited the public such as Rwanda’s Public Health insurance scheme that is accessed by more than 90 per cent of the population. She also said the Parliament of Rwanda introduced the legislation that the medical health of children under six years should be provided free of charge, something she largely attributed to the high number of women in the country’s parliament. Rwanda has the highest number of women representation in parliament – at 56 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies
WRA President Theresa Shaver said it’s becoming increasingly clear that when governments invest in health workers and make sure they are employed within a functioning healthcare system, they save the lives of millions of women and their newborns around the world. But she cited skilled care as part of the solution.
“Equally important is respect for human rights. A woman is much more likely to access and have confidence in healthcare that protects her from harm and respects her autonomy, choices and dignity,” Shaver said.
With joint advocacy, global leaders have recognised that the health of women is key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In September 2012, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon launched the ‘Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health’ which led to $70 billion worth of financial, policy and service delivery commitments from governments, multi-lateral organisations, the private sector and civil society.
“The IPU has made tremendous contribution by formally committing to the Global Strategy and drafting a resolution on ‘Access to Health as a Basic Right’. White Ribbon Alliance members and supporters here are strongly united in support of this resolution,” Shaver said.
“I do believe we are on the cusp of historic change for girls and women, and that parliamentarians have a crucial role of making that happen,” WRA President said.
After four days of intense discussions, the draft IPU resolution ‘Access to Health as a Basic Right: The Role of Parliaments in Addressing Key Challenges to Securing the Health of Women and Children’ was adopted by parliamentarians and key figures from the civil society and donor community.