“Residents of Africa’s urban informal settlement represent one population group that is increasingly left behind and at elevated risks for poor sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes.
For instance, across Africa, unintended pregnancy is among the leading reasons that urban adolescents girls drop out of school. ” Said Dr. Uwemedimo Esiet, Director, Action Health Incorporated, Nigeria
Dr. Esiet spoke yesterday during a media interaction session and launch of the 9th African Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ACSRHR), at Sheraton Hotel Nairobi.
He urged journalists to increase reportage of sexual and reproductive health issues that affect women and girls living in urban informal settlements such as; unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity, sexual and gender based violence, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDs, unmet need for family planning, harmful traditional practices and early sexual debut, among others.
He further underscored the impact of these issues on the economic outcomes for Africa.
The draft Maputo Plan of Action 2016-2030 notes the need for investing in SRH needs of adolescents, by improving access to and uptake of quality information and services for youth, that also includes family planning through provision of quality integrated youth friendly services.
“We know, you have challenges that you grapple with while covering SRHR stories, reach out to us. We will gladly help you, wherever possible” Reassured Jane Godia, Acting Executive Director, African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM).
Indeed, journalists mentioned of challenges they face while covering SRHR stories including cultural restrictions, respondents fearing stigma, cost of production, sensitivity of some stories and restrictive laws especially on abortion.
Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services result in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Africa is the world region with the highest number of abortion related deaths. In 2014, at least 9% of maternal deaths in Africa were from unsafe abortion. In 2017, about 58 Million women of reproductive age recorded an unmet need for modern contraception.
“Addressing the inequalities of women and girls in these informal settlements across Africa is key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the AU Agenda 2063. As journalists, you have a significant role of bringing attention to these issues for governments and respective institutions to act”. Concluded Godia
A growing proportion of the urban population are young people born and living in resource-constrained urban slums or who migrate to urban areas in search of opportunities. These urban youth live in an environment that offers limited education and employment opportunities, as well as inadequate housing, health, and social services. The result is an impoverished urban youth population with extremely high rates of unemployment and low educational attainment.
The future of Africa depends on its ability to harness the potential of its young people. Making the right investments in youth – particularly those in urban areas – can enable the region to experience substantial economic growth and sustainable national development for current and future generations (i.e. capitalizing on the Demographic
About the conference;
The 9th Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is a part of long term process of building and fostering regional dialogue/alliance on SRH that leads to concrete actions and enhances stake-holder capacity to influence policy and programming in favor of a sexually healthy conference.
The conference will be held on 12-14 February 2020, in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme ‘Advancing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women and girls in urban informal settlements’
What has been achieved? What has not been achieved? What can be done to accelerate achievement of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA) commitments?
These are key questions that guided a two- day consultative meeting held in Nairobi on 3-4th July, ahead of the ICPD25 Nairobi Summit.
The meeting convened by UNFPA Kenya and Amref Health Kenya brought together civil society organisations, national government representatives, youth-led organisations, non-governmental organisations and the Danish Embassy to interrogate the commitments that were agreed upon in Ciaro, 25 years ago.
It should be noted that during the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly held in 2011, implementation of the PoA intended to end in 2014 was extended for five more years, as the set commitments were yet to be achieved.
ICPD PoA appropriately emphasized the importance of investing in women and girls and the principal of reproductive health and rights for all. ICPD further highlights what needs to be done and the necessary accountability systems put in place to ensure that governments and stakeholders realize the commitments.
“As civil society, you have the responsibility to understand the ICPD process, consult extensively among yourselves and come up with clear commitments and a fairly robust way to engage the national government to make necessary commitment and hold them accountable on the commitments made” Said Dr. Ademola Olajide, UNFPA Kenya Representative, during his opening remarks.
“I believe this is the beginning of a milestone in a larger process for civil societies to seek the way forward, redefine how they want to engage and how they want to be engaged” He added.
UNFPA Kenya observes that; over the years, the world has changed for the better. Governments’ efforts to protect the health and rights of women and girls have gained momentum;-
>>Today more women have the means to decide if and when they become pregnant and have access to sexual reproductive health services. Fewer girls are subjected to child marriage, and fewer women die from the pregnancy-related complications. The number of maternal deaths each year, for example, decreased by about 40 per cent over the last 25 years, and today, one in five girls is forced into marriage before age 18, compared with one in three in 1994.
Despite impressive gains, urgent action is required to reduce mortality and morbidity, address the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and young people, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs and provide reproductive health care to women and youth in emergency situations<<
Statistics by World Health Organization indicate that an estimated 214 million women who want to prevent a pregnancy are not using a modern method of contraception. In developing countries, some 830 women die every day from preventable causes during pregnancy or while giving birth. Every day, 39,000 girls are forced into marriages, and every year 4 million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation.
What has been achieved in Kenya, so far.
Besides the progressive reproductive health policies, the government of Kenya under the Ministry of Health has made notable progress at improving reproductive health of women and girls. As such, there is a free maternity care program dubbed Linda Mama initiative; a public funded health scheme that ensures pregnant women and infants have access to quality and affordable health services.
Another notable initiative spearheaded by The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta is the “Beyond Zero Campaign” , a campaign that seeks to bring prenatal and postnatal medical treatment to less privileged women and children in Kenya, by use of mobile clinics.
Stronger political will by the current Administration is being witnessed. At Women Deliver 2019, the president of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, pledged to put an end on Female Genital Mutilation and make Kenya an equal society for all as priority for his term. A week ago, the vice president of Kenya, William Ruto, joined UNFPA Kenya, Eco Bank and The Anti-FGM Board in signing of the End FGM Beads Initiative, a key intervention that will empower pastoralist women by promoting the sale of bead products; increase awareness against retrogressive practices and foster sustainable development.
In addition Civil Society organisations also celebrate advocacy gains such as the recent landmark ruling on access to safe abortion in a case against Ministry of Health. The High Court ruled that withdrawing the 2012 Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya had violated both the right to comprehensive and accurate health information and the right to the highest attainable standard of health for women and girls.
Still, more has to be done…
To accelerate the promise, civil societies have set a deliberate agenda to have mechanisms in place that will increase political will, invest in innovation and data, create financing momentum, engage with the private sector by ensuring that women and youth are at the forefront of shaping the priorities and agenda.
There too are emerging issues and increasingly opposing voices pushing back progress that has been made over the years, issues ranging from medicalization of FGM, current petition on the FGM law, rising teenage pregnancy, the recent ruling on LGBTQIs, a rapidly ageing population to migration among other issues. To accelerate the promise, SRHR stakeholders have to devise innovative ways to tackle these issues.
This meeting comes ahead of the up-coming ICPD25 Summit that will be held in Nairobi on 12-14 November.
Yesterday afternoon, the Center for Reproductive Rights won a landmark case challenging the government’s withdrawal of “Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya” (Standards & Guidelines). The Center filed the case on behalf of an adolescent (JMM)—who died last year after suffering from complications that resulted from an unsafe abortion—as well as the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya and two community human rights advocates. The case was presided over by a five-judge bench at the Nairobi High Court.
In this ground breaking decision, the Court found that the Director of Medical Services and the Ministry of Health had violated the rights of Kenyan women and girls by arbitrarily withdrawing the guidelines, thereby creating uncertainty as to the status of legal abortion and discouraging medical providers from performing abortions for fear of criminal prosecution. It provided a comprehensive ruling which:
Declared that women and girls have the right to the highest attainable standard of health—which includes its broadest interpretation, to include mental and social well-being as well as physical—right to non-discrimination, right to life, and other rights.
The Court ordered individual reparations of Skh 3 million, or USD $29,600, to JMM’s mother.
Declared that the memo violated and threatened the rights of health workers, therefore, the memo and letter were found unlawful, illegal and now void.
Stated that abortion is illegal except under conditions of Article 26(4).
Declared that abortion is permitted for victims of sexual violence.
Unsafe abortion is one of the main causes of maternal deaths in Kenya. Despite the fact that these deaths are preventable, seven women and girls die from unsafe abortion every day. Women and girls seek unsafe clandestine abortions due to a lack of access to reproductive health information and quality services, lack of clarity on the legal status of abortion, and pervasive cultural stigma.
“This is a landmark ruling and victory for Kenyan women and girls. JMM’s case is a window into the plight of many other women and girls who have no place to turn, and no access to information or reproductive health services. With the implementation of this court order, health providers will be able to offer abortion and post-abortion care services without the fear of being prosecuted. And it is a step in the right direction toward improving maternal health outcomes for our country,” said Evelyne Opondo, Senior Regional Director for Africa for the Center.
According to a study conducted by African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and the Ministry of Health, approximately 464,000 women had an abortion in Kenya in 2012. Of those, nearly 120,000 were admitted to public health facilities for severe complications. In a 2018 study, the Ministry of Health and the African Population and Health Research Center also found that the cost of treating complications arising from unsafe abortion in public facilities in Kenya was Ksh 432.7 million, or US $5.1 million. These findings highlight the significant financial burden of unsafe abortion in Kenya.
“I am very pleased with today’s ruling,” said PKM, JMM’s mother. “I know this is what my daughter, JMM, would have wanted to see: that justice is served, and that Kenyan women and girls in need of emergency health services including abortion, regardless of their social economic status, are able to access safe and legal abortion services without fear of being stigmatized.”
In September 2012, the Ministry of Medical Services published the “Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya.” However, In December 2013, the Director of Medical Services withdrew the Standards and Guidelines without explanation, and without the involvement of the stakeholders who had participated in its development. The withdrawal was followed by a memo in February 2014 that further stated that there was no need for the training of health workers on safe abortion care or the use of the drug Medabon for medical abortion. The Ministry threatened health providers with dire legal and professional consequences if they participated in any abortion training. Cumulatively, these actions created confusion among health providers as to when to offer abortion services, including post-abortion care services. The result has been a chilling effect: fearing reprisal, health professionals have opted out of providing services to women and girls even when they fall under the permitted legal grounds for abortion.
In 2015, the Center, representing all the petitioners, filed a case against the Attorney General, Director of Medical Services, and the Ministry of Health. The Petition was challenging the Ministry of Health and urging the High Court to protect women’s health and lives by restoring safe abortion training. Furthermore, the Petition called on the Ministry of Health to reinstate Standards and Guidelines to provide clarity on when and how to provide legal abortion care.
According to the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, most of the 4.3 billion people in their reproductive age worldwide will lack access to at least one essential sexual or reproductive health service over the course of their reproductive life. In 2018, 214 million women in developing countries had an unmet need for modern contraception, contributing to 67 million unintended pregnancies, 23 million unplanned births, and 36 million abortions. These numbers illustrate huge gaps in access to basic sexual and reproductive health services, posing serious challenges to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.
It is now three years since a Framework for Action to implement Universal Health Care (UHC) was launched. Most African countries have integrated UHC as a goal in their national health strategies. However, progress in translating these commitments into expanded domestic resources for health, effective development gains, equitable and quality health services, and increased financial protection, has been slow. What is evident is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving UHC. Strategies often depend on local circumstance and national dialogue.
Despite the great diversity of African countries, many are facing common challenges and struggles with respect to political leadership, financial sustainability, social norms, multistakeholder involvement among other critical factors for successful implementation of SRHR within UHC framework, thus learning and encouragement from each other is inevitable.
IPPFAR Side Meeting held in Kigali Rwanda 5th March on the margins of the UHAC2019 convened multi a stakeholders (Governments, CSOs, youth, media, private sector) with main objective to reflect and interrogate status quo of UHC in practice. The meeting also aimed to reflect on implementation and document successes and gaps as well as rally calls for new commitments to strengthen implementation of SRHR within UHC.
Of particular interest was the need to address policy environment enabling availability, accessibility, affordability of community-owned/led, high quality, user friendly wide range SRHR information and services for all including youth, adolescents, women, men irrespective of social status, sex inclination and represented abilities; under the banner: “The UHC. Leaving No One Behind. How Far Are We?” Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, etc were represented.
All speakers on panel attested that most African countries have undertaken a number of health system and financing reforms to increase coverage for quality health services, improve availability of essential medicines, and reduce out-of-pocket payments-(financial protection).
The countries are keen to adhere to international frameworks for health including the MDGs, SDGs, Abuja Declaration, Maputo Protocol as well as commitments made at the Family Panning 2020 London summit 2012, which called for urgent and intensified action to accelerate progress to the FP2020 goals and vision of universal access to sexual and reproductive health. Similar struggles such as poverty makes it necessary to prioritise basic health.
Dr Dinah Nakiganda, Assistant Commissioner Reproductive Health, Ministry of Health Uganda attributed Uganda’s milestone to political commitment, strong partnerships, a vibrant private sector and communities that are determined to ensure they get what they want.
The Ministry of Health, Uganda, also realized the importance of upgrading health centres, increasing personnel by hiring and remunerating Community Health Workers (CHWs) to reach everyone in rural areas, staffing health facilities to meet the needs of the growing population, integrating community health services with public sector. She mentioned that Uganda has a health sector monitoring and supervision framework, an elaborate well spread health infrastructure at all levels of national and local government administration and an impressive tracking system for health supplies. In addition the government of Uganda has framed their most recent health sector strategic plan and health financing strategy in the name of achieving UHC by 2025—and plans to roll out a new health insurance scheme that will include family planning in national health insurance schemes within 2018-2022.
On her part, Hon. Sabina Chege Chairperson Parliamentary Health Committee, Kenya, admitted that Kenya still has room and political goodwill to actively engage its young population on the road map to attaining UHC, for it listed healthcare as one of the key pillars to development agenda, alongside affordable housing, food security and manufacturing.
Kenya has hitherto been implementing UHC through abolishing of user fees in dispensaries and health centers since 2013 and launched, in 2018, the pilot phase of UHC in 4 of its 47 counties, with plans to enroll each Kenyan by 2022. Linda Mama free maternity care programme and Beyond Zero Campaign spearheaded by the First Lady of Kenya, -an initiative that involves mobile clinics to reach women from interior parts of the country with the aim to prevent maternal and neo-natal deaths are programs meant to improve SRH services for Kenyan women.
Hon. Dr. Christopher Kalila, MP and Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Health, Zambia acknowledged that SRHR in Zambia is a priority of the National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021. All programs in SRHR are aligned to the global, continental and regional frameworks such as; Maputo Plan of Action on Population and Development, Agenda 2063, the SDGs and the SADC framework on SRHR. In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the government of Zambia has preserved a law, to increase access to health insurance from 14%-100%.
Zambia has drafted policies around Adolescents and Young people that have pushed for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and now CSE has been incorporated into the syllabus. Zambia’s school re-entry policy, just like Kenya, allows young mothers to enrol back to school and complete their education.
Together with CSOs, Hon. Kalila carrys-out trips to prisons to inspect access to SRH services such as sanitary towels.
Hon Kalila also chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC) parliamentary forum on SRHR where he ensures that SRHR programs are aligned to the regional health agenda as guided by the SADC Protocol on Health.
Africa’s population is very young. More than 50% of its population is under the age of 25. There is a very high rate of teenage pregnancies and teenage marriages among girls. Davis Mukisa, Family Planning and Adolescents Health, and Co-chair RHRN Alliance Uganda, mentioned that besides policies around Youth and Adolescents, Young people have been actively participating in advocacy and have leveraged on both traditional and social media platforms to voice their concerns. As a result, Youth Friendly Centres have been set up at health facilities to specifically attend to the young people.
The challenges posed
Despite the great diversity of these countries, many face common challenges. Challenges such as; poverty, industrial strikes, human resources issues, corruption, slow implementation of policies, low GDP and dependency on foreign aid. These are major drawbacks to achieving UHC.
Way Forward discussed
Nonetheless, all countries can do more to improve health outcomes and tackle poverty, by increasing coverage of health services, and by reducing the impoverishment associated with payment for health services. Governments can like Zambia, work to have SRH services and supplies included in the basic package of services offered under the UHC strategies, such as national health insurance and hence reduce out-of-pocket health expenditures.
Like Kenya, governments need to abolish user fees at primary health care level. Countries further need to increase personnel by hiring and remunerating Community Health Workers (CHWs) to reach everyone in rural areas, as well as staff health facilities to meet the needs of men, women adolescents, the elderly and marginalized groups.
Donor funding is insufficient and dwindling. Public financing is necessary to ensure sustainability of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) investments. Sexual and reproductive health advocates need to shift focus on domestic resource mobilization (DRM).
The media too has to play the role of highlighting the plight, disseminating information, creating awareness about UHC and holding each one accountable on their roles and commitments they make.
As Dr. Donavine Uwimana, Executive Director, Association Burundaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial’s (ABUBEF) put it in her call to action remarks; Government partners and other stakeholders – including service providers, researchers, and advocates – must work together to prioritize and invest in comprehensive SRH services and supplies as part of any reform of the health system, including UHC strategies.
Progress toward Countries that achieve their UHC targets by 2030 will eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths, strengthen resilience to public health emergencies, reduce financial hardship linked to illness, and strengthen the foundations for long-term economic growth.
An estimated 2,600 women die from unsafe abortions annually. These figure comprises of cases reported in the public healthcare system, meaning the number could be much higher. Many of the victims are aged between 10 and 24 years.
Good news coming in Mid-February this year was that the Ministry of Health in Kenya, approved post abortion guidelines, a pocket guide for healthcare providers; on how to handle complications resulting from abortions.
The guide-book that will soon be launched will equip service providers with the necessary knowledge and skills on the prevention of post-abortion deaths.
“We consider this an advocacy gain for Kenya “Said, Mr. Edward Marienga, Executive Director Family Health Options Kenya Mr. Marienga spoke during an advocacy meeting in Nairobi, by International Planned Parenthood Association Africa Region (IPPFAR), that brought together Civil Society Organizations, journalists and parliamentarians. “There was a lot of confusion around offering Post Abortion Care services given that these guidelines existed before but were retracted in 2012. The move left many of health care providers scared of handling cases that could trickle in. They referred patients to National hospitals where many died before getting the much needed services” Added Mr. Marienga.
The advocacy meeting that took place last week (24th-28th March), meant to strengthen capacities and collaboration between the three groups for improved sexual and reproductive health outcomes for Africa.
Roseline Odera, Communications and Advocacy Officer FHOK however mentioned that a lot of advocacy work, coordination among CSOs and consultations by the Ministry’s Reproductive and Maternal Health Unit yielded fruits. She also said that cases by media depicting the gravity of the unsafe abortions triggered the Ministry of Health to act.
While abortion is illegal in Kenya, it is permitted in instances where the mother’s life is in danger. Article 26(4) states: “Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is the need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”Article 158 stipulates a 14-year jail term to anyone who attempts to procure an abortion.
Unsafe abortions have been identified as one of the major causes of maternal deaths locally. The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey says unsafe abortions accounted for 35 percent of the maternal deaths; the global average is 13 percent.
This pocket guide will contribute to the universal health coverage and by extension Vision 2030 through improvement of maternal and newborn health in Kenya.
“Access to sexual reproductive health is not just a right but a necessity for Universal Health Coverage programs to succeed, especially for the growing number of girls reaching the reproductive age across the continent. There is particularly an urgent need for increased universal and youth friendly access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care service” Read the opening remarks of the AHAIC Preliminary report.
African countries are racing towards achieving UHC for all its citizens in a bid to also achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3. Despite the great momentum toward improving health coverage, millions of people in Africa lack access to services related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). UHC cannot be achieved if access to quality sexual and reproductive health services is ignored.
In the spirit of leaving no one behind, delegates reckoned that SRH services and supplies must be included in the basic package of services offered under the UHC strategies, such as national health insurance: From the design phase, stakeholders must make evidence based decisions regarding what SRH services and supplies will be included in the basic package of services, to ensure that services reflect the needs of women, adolescents, and marginalized groups.
To advance UHC, the specific needs and challenges facing adolescents must be addressed. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) empowers young people to safely and positively navigate their sexuality, contributes to safer sexual behaviors and leads to better health and wellbeing outcomes. CSE is a key component in the prevention of poor health outcomes and addressing the social drawbacks of health. Governments must make concurrent investments in CSE across health, education and related sectors to make the strongest possible contribution to health outcomes.
During one of the AHAIC breakout sessions on addressing cultural, social and age barriers to accessing health services in Africa, delegates agreed that such barriers to accessing SRH services must be addressed. They include low literacy levels, subordination within families and communities, violence, lack of partner or parental permission to access services, and stigma and discrimination based on gender and age. Even when high quality SRH services are available, women and young people may face specific barriers to accessing them.
Health for all does not come automatically, we want to see not only political will but political leadership, strong investment and the voice of the people at every level of the process, H.E Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Founder The Well Being Foundation Africa
AHAIC symposium; Achieving UHC by strengthening SRHR, organized by Swedish International Development Cooperation, SRHR Team, and UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) and Embassy of Sweden highlighted that effective accountability mechanisms must guide the design and implementation of UHC programs: Regular monitoring and reviewing must be built into UHC programs to ensure that services reflect the needs of women, adolescents, and marginalized groups. In particular, the participation of civil society (including women’s and citizen’s groups, service providers, young people, and health professionals) in accountability for UHC can guarantee that the SRH priorities of the entire population are met.
The symposium also highlighted the importance of data collection, and monitoring and evaluation systems for UHC that would include a range of indicators. These would be aimed at capturing whether women and adolescents, in particular, are able to access and receive quality SRH services. Indicators can include: service delivery indicators (contraceptive prevalence rate, unmet need for family planning); supply chain performance indicators (availability of medicines and supplies, supply chain responsiveness); health outcome indicators (adolescent birth rate); and equity indicators (gender disparities in impoverishment/financial protection for health, inequality for family planning coverage).
We should use this one occasion to not only push forward the investments in women and girls, not least, the ability to decide on their own bodies, their sexual and reproductive health and rights. When a woman can decide on her own body, she can be anything she wants to be in the world’.Katja Iversen- CEO Women Deliver
The symposium further suggested that the responsiveness of supply systems must be strengthened: This is necessary to avoid stock-outs of the essential medicines and supplies required to deliver quality SRH services. From the design phase, stakeholders must assess whether current supply systems are sufficiently robust to withstand the additional demands of the UHC strategy.
Embracing technological advancement was also discussed in one of the plenary sessions; (Leveraging technology and innovative models of service delivery to accelerate access) as a mechanism that would be essential in achieving UHC. Mobile Apps and messaging services to reach young people with SRH information was seen as a viable way to address myths and misconceptions that encroach use of family planning. This would enable young people to make informed choices about their bodies. In Uganda, for example, young people have developed mobile apps to monitor fetal distress, diagnose breast cancer, and disseminate information on HIV and AIDS.
Ensuring that all individuals are able access a minimum essential package of quality SRHR services and information will not only benefit broader aspects of health but allows gains in other development outcomes including gender equality, education, employment, sustainable and inclusive growth and poverty eradication.
After decades of prolonged cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation, hopes of its total obliteration finally gleam across Africa after the Africa Union (AU) charged political leaders to prioritize its elimination among their mandated roles.
The decision came after deliberations by civil society organizations, women-led movements, political leaders and Heads of States/Governments met at this years’ AU Summit that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 10-11th February. At the summit, a special assembly was set up to discuss action around the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a practice that has had serious costs on African societies.
In effect, His Excellency Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso, was designated as the African Union Champion for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation; an indication that AU is keen on galvanizing political commitment towards wiping out FGM and child marriages in Africa.
The Assembly noted with concern, the high rates of FGM in Africa, where 50 million girls will be at risk of undergoing this injurious, harmful practice by 2030. FGM is a human rights violation which causes lifelong health complications resulting from the procedures administered to girls and women. The practice also adversely affects the maternal health outcomes on the continent.
The Assembly further endorsed the continental initiative led by the Commission to be known as Saleema: African Union Initiative on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation. They (the assembly) called on Member States to implement the African Union Initiative on Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, with a focus on ending medicalization and addressing cross border practice of FGM.
Notwithstanding, the Assembly saw an urgent need to implement strong legislative frameworks, allocate domestic financial resources, promote use of evidence and data, regular reporting, and the engagement of civil society and community groups in ending female genital mutilation.
Finally, the Assembly requested the Commission to put in place an accountability framework to hold Member States to account and monitor progress at the regional and national level in line with commitments made.
ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE
The assembly reaffirmed its commitment towards the Implementation of the Common African Position on Ending Child Marriage in Africa and recommendations from the first African Girls Summit held in Lusaka, Zambia in November 2015 and all the recommendations from the 2nd African Girls Summit on Ending Child Marriage held in Accra Ghana in November 2018.
The Assembly also decided to take concrete actions to end child marriage in all its forms and manifestations, with firm commitment to article 21(2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and to have comprehensive report on the progress of Ending Child Marriage in Africa through the reporting channel to the Policy Organs.