By Flavia Nassaka
The East African Community (EAC) member countries are working on establishing a joint health research commission in Bujumbura this year as one of the efforts by the region to enhance health systems and to also ensure universal health coverage.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the 5th Annual EAC Health and Scientific Conference to be hosted in Uganda from Mar. 25 to 27, Jesca Eriyo, the Deputy Secretary General of the EAC in charge of productive and social sectors said once the commission is complete, member countries will be in charge of different areas whereby Uganda has been identified for cancer treatment, Kenya for urology, Tanzania for heart disease, Burundi for nutrition and Rwanda will be in charge of health systems.
The conference held on a rotational basis will focus on Health Systems Strengthening, social determinants of health, conditions of public health importance and integrated approaches for disease prevention, control and management.
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, the State Minister in charge of General Duties said among other issues, stakeholders will document progress made towards attaining health related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose deadline is this year and also lay down strategies to control and prevent threats of emerging and re-emerging communicable and non-communicable diseases.
But, however as member countries document progress on MDGs whereby reducing maternal health is part, East Africa still has a long way to go as deaths are still way too high whereby the World Health Organization report 2014 indicate that in Kenya maternal mortality ratio stands at 400 per 100,000 live births, Uganda stands at 360, Tanzania at 410 whereas Rwanda is at 320.
Christine Munduru, a consultant of Maternal and Child Health at Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) Uganda said the main cause of maternal deaths in East Africa is unsafe abortion brought about by teenage pregnancy whereby in Uganda alone half of the women become pregnant before 18 years.
“Girls go for crude methods of abortion because of the stigma that comes with early pregnancy. In fact 42% of deliveries are done without skilled attendance”, she added.
However, as Health Ministers and Permanent Secretaries convene for the conference, civil society organizations have asked governments to embrace a right based approach as a key solution to reduce maternal deaths whereby all individuals right from family level should be held accountable and play a role in ensuring a mother gets a highest attainable standard of health.