Women’s health is the foundation for social and economic development in the African Region. Women’s health is recognized as a human rights issue and should be promoted and defended as such.
Women in Africa represent slightly over 50% of the continent’s human resources and so women’s health has huge implications for the Region’s development. Focusing on the unacceptably high level of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.
Iyilik Denizi is aiming to set up a fundamental rethinking of approaches to improving women’s health informed by an understanding of the sociocultural determinants that are so important in shaping it.
With the Region accounting for more than half of all maternal deaths worldwide, each year; and, sadly, the situation is not improving significantly. More than half of maternal deaths occur within 24 to 48 hours after delivery due to complications ranging from postpartum hemorrhage to sepsis and hypertensive disorders.
Some African mothers simply bleed to death after delivery because no skilled health care professional is present to help. It is estimated that about a quarter of maternal deaths could be prevented through emergency obstetric care. The situation is even more tragic considering that maternal mortality is largely preventable as evidenced by the global disparity in maternal health outcomes. Indeed, in Europe maternal mortality is a rare event, occurring in only 20 out of 100000 live births, compared to 480 per100000 in the African Region, the highest ratio of all the regions in the world.
While HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality continue to predominate in the morbidity and mortality statistics of the Region, other problems loom. In their advanced ages, African women suffer increasingly from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), notably cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
According to WHO, if nothing is done to address the issue of NCDs, they will represent at least 50% of mortality in the African Region by 2020.
The report of the Commission on Women's Health in the African Region (Done by the WHO's regional office for Africa) shows that the failure of health systems in the majority of African countries to provide accessible care of adequate quality is one of the main drivers of the adverse trends in women’s health indicators.
This situation stems from underinvestment in women’s health and also from other factors such as inadequate empowerment of women and poor health systems design. Since 2003, average health spending as a percentage of total spending by African countries has hovered around 10%, i.e., two-thirds of the level to which African leaders committed themselves in Abuja in 2001 and even with adequate funding, health systems in the Region will struggle to meet the needs of women unless fundamental changes are made in health systems design.
Most modern health care services provided in the region is clinic-based, physician-oriented, and urban-centered, leaving the predominantly rural population woefully underserved.