Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

MMI Network News, May 2012

Photo taken from MMI Annual Report 2011. (c) action medeor
Photo taken from MMI Annual Report 2011. (c) action medeor

Editorial: Rights related to maternal health - action required

Dear reader,

Throughout the world, bringing life into the world is one of the most joyous events experienced by women. In developed countries, women can generally expect to experience pregnancy and childbirth in relative safety, with nearly all related complications treatable with well-known and routine solutions. This is not the case for women going through the same experience in developing countries. Each year, 358,000 women lose their lives due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Even as the global number of maternal deaths has decreased, the burden has remained unchanged, with 99% of all maternal deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. To give this a little more perspective, we can look at a woman’s lifetime risk of death due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In Switzerland, a given woman’s risk of death due to maternal causes is approximately 1 in 7600. This risk is exponentially higher for a woman living in a developing country; she faces an astounding lifetime risk of 1 in 120.  This state of affairs is especially tragic given that the vast majority of maternal deaths are entirely avoidable, as it has been clearly demonstrated in rich countries. The United Nations has referred to the disparity in maternal mortality and morbidity between developed and developing nations as the “world’s worst health inequity”.

As the tragedy of maternal mortality has gained increased attention in the international community, the contextualization of maternal mortality within a rights framework has gained momentum.  Already in 2001, the World Health Organization recognized that “the failure to address preventable maternal disability and death represents one of the greatest social injustices of our time.” In 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution on preventable maternal morbidity and mortality, denouncing it as violations to women’s and girls’ rights life, health, equality and non-discrimination, the rights to benefit from scientific progress, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health. Just last fall, the United Nations Human Rights Council reaffirmed the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, calling on actors to implement direct action to save mother’s lives using a rights approach. 

This international mobilization around this common concern reinforces the case and credibility for action to improve maternal health at the national level. At this level, governments must be held accountable for designing policies conducive to improving maternal health and for expanding and strengthening the health services that are necessary to allow women to experience birth safely and have obstetrical complications treated. While it is understood that many governments have resource constraints, most, if not all, can invest more in maternal health and would receive long-term benefits for doing so. 

Moreover, this increasing emphasis on rights must also embolden action at the local level within communities. Action at this level will require joint efforts of various actors, including local government, NGOs and community organizations in order to increase awareness of women’s rights related to maternal health, empower women to exercise these rights and ensure the support of the broader community in creating an environment where women can exercise their rights.  Efforts to achieve this will necessarily be multipronged. Women, families and communities need to come to understand that women have the right to seek needed maternal and newborn health services. In order for this to occur, women must have the power to make the decision to seek care within the household and be empowered to demand the services which have been defined as their right. Within the health services, women should understand that they have the right to be treated with empathy and respect, have their questions answered and be accompanied by a companion of their choice during antenatal and postnatal care visits as well as during birth. To accomplish this, interventions should target not only women, but their families, male partners, as well as local leaders and health workers. In short, real change will require acting on the entire community and all the actors involved.

The challenge to promote women’s rights related to maternal health and achieve equity in this domain may seem daunting, but it is essential to improving not only the health but also the status and well-being of women throughout the world. It is essential that we capitalize on the current energy and work at international, national and local levels to expand this effort and ensure the rights of all women.

Cecilia Capello, Enfants du Monde,
Enfants du Monde is a member of Medicus Mundi Switzerland

MMI Network: Annual Report 2011 - Members first!

We still wait for a very last contribution to the MMI Annual Report 2011, so it will be published only later on this week. In the meantime, you might have a look at the great contributions by Network members published already on the MMI ePlatform. Thanks to all of you!

Members of the MMI Network: “short stories”
Focus on mother and child health

Members of the MMI Network:
More “short stories” 


MMI Annual report: Annual reports of MMI Network members will be published here next month – let us know!


MMI Network news: Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

MMI Network: Geneva events (1)
Annual Assembly of the MMI Network

Geneva, 25 May 2012. As usually, the Annual Assembly of the Medicus Mundi International Network will take place in the week of the World Health Assembly. We will meet at the Ecumenical Institute Château de Bossey outside Geneva. The Assembly agenda will include the annual report and accounts of MMI, the admission of HealthNet TPO, The Netherlands, as a new Network member, and the election of a new Board member. Medicus Mundi Italy proposes Fabian R. Schumacher as successor of Nina Urwantzoff who retires from the Board. A dinner on Thursday evening, 24 May and meetings of the MMI working groups on research (Thursday afternoon) and human resources (Friday morning) are planned as side events to the Assembly.

The formal invitation will be sent to the Network members and key partners on 3 May 2012 by e-mail. The Assembly documentation will be available soon in the internal section of the MMI ePlatform.

MMI Network: Geneva events (2)
Civil society events around the 65th World Health Assembly

Geneva, 17-26 May 2012. An informal calendar of civil society events around the upcoming 65th WHA compiled by Medicus Mundi International. Network members and partners are invited to register for the WHA through the MMI secretariat until 9 May 2012. Thank you!

Network conference report: ACHAP
Supporting African faith-based organizations to develop health workforce advocacy messages

Nairobi, 16-18 April 2012. Human Resources for Health leaders from several faith-based organizations across Africa gathered in Nairobi at a meeting of the HRH Technical Working Group of the African Christian Health Associations (ACHA) Platform. Participants identified issues and their root causes and effects related to health service provision faced by their organizations and affiliated health facilities. While poor retention is a problem faced by all organizations and health facilities, the root causes and effects were different from country to country. Using the root cause discussion as a springboard, the group brainstormed themes for the development of key HRH advocacy messages for the ACHA Platform and the individual organizations to use for HRH lobbying.

Network conference report: Medicus Mundi Switzerland
Advocacy and HIV

Berne, 17 April 2012. Support groups of people living with HIV turn more and more into advocacy groups to stand up for their interests and rights. Advocacy is a key component in the struggle towards an AIDS-free future and the fulfilment of the right to health for all. The conference 2012 focused on advocacy and opened a space for sharing, discussion and joint learning on experiences, visions and strategies to end the epidemic.

Network report: ITM Antwerp and MMI
The difficult relationship between faith-based health care organisations
and the public sector in sub-Saharan Africa

“We are happy to present the final revised version of the original MMI study report on contracting between public health authorities and faith-based health organisations in four sub-Saharan African countries (Cameroun, Chad, Tanzania and Uganda). This version has been thoroughly reviewed so as to better fit academic standards and is currently in press in the ITM Series 'Studies in Health Services Organisation & Policy'.” Delphine Boulenger and Bart Criel, April 2012

Emergency relief: Medicus Mundi Andalucia
Food crisis in Burkina Faso

“In 2012, Burkina Faso faces a serious food crisis caused by different factors, like the drought and the harvest shortage of 2011, the high prices of food, the deep poverty and the regional conflicts (Mali). Medicus Mundi Andalucía will focus its work on fight against malnutrition on children who have nutritional disorders in severe and moderate rates, especially in the most vulnerable zones, supporting population to face the crisis, particularly in the provinces of Yatenga, Koulpélogo and Ganzourgou. We ask you to collaborate URGENTLY in this campaign, either individuals or entities and institutions. This campaign, which has already started, will be extended at least until October-November, when it is expected the next harvest.”

Networking tools: MMI
Thematic guide: International migration and recruitment of health personnel

Our thematic guide to internet resources leads you beyond the limits of the Medicus Mundi International Network. Any important resources missing? Please let us know.

Global Health: MMI updates

Bits and pieces of news on international health policy: each “MMI update” is 140 characters or less - these are the rules of the game on twitter. Just enough for a headline, eventually an author, a date, the source – and a link to the website where you find the full information. Have a look at some of our “tweets” published during the last month. As usual, it’s a bit much, so take it or leave it.

Human resources for health


Health systems strengthening
Health services, health financing
Universal health coverage


Health research


Access to medicines and vaccination
Control of communicable diseases


Women’s and children’s health
Reproductive health and rights

Equity and human right to health
Social determinants of health


Global health governance and policy


Beyond 2015, MDGs and SDGs


NGO debate


The new World Bank president: a doctor…


World Day on Safety and Health at Work
28 April 2012


World Malaria Day
25 April 2012


World Health Day
7 April 2012


Other topics


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