It’s been a few days since the celebration of International Day for Maternal Health and Rights on April 11.
Still, with maternal deaths at 89 per 100,000 live births up to 2015, compared to 79 per 100,000 in 1990, what is a few days late in helping to draw attention to this day and its value? Certainly it matters, if to no one else, then to the families of women who lose their lives in pregnancy and childbirth each year or who, even as I write, are at highest risk of death and/or compromised health.
I am using this space, therefore, to share a statement from the ‘Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health in Jamaica’ project.
This three-year project is being implemented as part of the European Union-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC) and aims to, among other things, enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate for maternal and child health and rights, and to effectively participate in healthcare planning and monitoring.
Among the planned outputs of the project are a civil society consultative forum, a charter of patients’ rights and an agreed complaints and redress system.
Below is the statement issued by project implementing partners, the University of the West Indies Department of Community Health and Psychiatry and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre.
KINGSTON, Jamaica. 12 April 2018
As Jamaicans we are known to refer to each other as ‘wagonists’, particularly when it comes to the performance of their sports stars, who, while loved, do not always enjoy their favour.
For International Day for Maternal Health and Rights, celebrated each year on April 11, we are counting on that label to begin the conversation on the plight of our women and girls when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.
The goal is to have individuals and organisations transformed into advocates for maternal and child health and rights, as we remain on the wagon to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3, which has among its targets the reduction of the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.
From hypertension to unsafe abortions, together with heart disease and sickle cell disease, among other illnesses, Jamaican women and girls continue to die in pregnancy and childbirth. The result is that the island’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) stood at 89 per 100,000 live births in 2015. That 2015 figure represents a worsening of the health outcomes for pregnant women and girls when compared to 1990 when it was 79 per 100,000 live births.
It is against this background that the ‘Partnership for the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health’ project has taken the time to get behind the celebration of International Day for Maternal Heath and Rights, and calls on other Jamaicans, from the Government to the private sector and civil society, to offer their own support to the day and to champion the cause of maternal and child health and rights.
The International Day for Maternal Health and Rights was launched in 2014 by the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and other global sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations, who continue to work towards its official endorsement by the United Nations. Meanwhile, support for the day continues to grow.
To have the day recognised in Jamaica, we feel, presents a number of benefits, not the least of which is a vehicle to bring public attention to issues of maternal health and rights in Jamaica, since it is at the point of awareness that the labour for change begins. As citizens, we must, of necessity, understand that there is something that needs to be changed before we can become invested in the effort toward it.
This awareness can then be amplified by a national discourse on the subject, one that can be engaged in among and between different stakeholders, from patients, their families and local communities to healthcare providers, policymakers and members of industry, as well as international development partners.
The recognition of the day can also help to set the stage for the sustainability of the current efforts to improve maternal and child health outcomes. These efforts include the European Union-funded Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality, of which the ‘Partnership for the Promotion of Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health in Jamaica’ project is one component.
Launched in April last year (2017), that component of the work – implemented jointly by the University of the West Indies Department of Community Health and Psychiatry and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre – is focused on advocacy for the human rights approach to the delivery and receipt of maternal and child healthcare, and to improve the role and effectiveness of civil society in addressing this goal.
Further, local recognition of the day may serve the island’s brand as one committed to maternal and child health, anchored in the human rights approach to patients’ care. This approach sees respect accorded to each actor in the care provider-patient relationship, as rights such as the right to informed consent to treatment, as well as to privacy and confidentiality are upheld.
Come join the bandwagon!