Nairobi Summit – 25 Years On

On 12th-14th November over 9,500 participants from more than 170 countries convened at the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25). The Summit marked the 25th anniversary of the first International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, where leaders came together to support the empowerment of women and girls and agreed upon a Programme of Action to ensure that sexual and reproductive health are upheld as human rights.

Leaders come together to support sexual and reproductive health

The governments of Kenya and Denmark and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) hosted the summit. Attendees included heads of state, thought-leaders, not-for-profits, international financial institutions, academics, business and community leaders and many others with a shared interest of furthering sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Ethiopia was well represented at the Nairobi Summit. Her Excellency, Sejarela Abdulahi, the State Minister of Health presented on ‘Equity in Access and Countering Discrimination’ whilst Her Excellency, Yalem Tsegaye, the Minister of Women, Children & Youth was also in attendance.

The Programme of Action

The Programme of Action, as outlined in Cairo 25 years ago, committed to achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health, reducing infant mortality rates to below 35 per 1,000 live births and achieving a 75% reduction of the maternal mortality rate by 2015. Achieving these objectives is a necessary step in reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Although significant progress has been made, progress has been slow and the goals remain largely unmet.

Read here for more information about Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s work on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Nairobi Summit this year sought to extend the commitment to sexual and reproductive health and the wider SDGs by striving for ‘three zeroes’:

Substantial progress for the women of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has made significant strides in recent years towards improving health outcomes for its women and children. Most significantly, Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate was achieved. (The Millennium Development Goals were the precursor to the Sustainable Development Goals). In addition, the provision of antenatal care increased from 10% of Ethiopian women in 2000 to 32% in 2014 according to a 2017 report in The Lancet.

However, more than 70% of births in Ethiopia still take place without a doctor or nurse present and the maternal mortality rate is still an unacceptably high 353 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

In recognition of the enormous burden of maternal mortality, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health has placed ending preventable maternal mortality at the top of the health sector’s agenda.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s role in meeting the Nairobi Summit’s goals

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is proud of its strong commitment to reducing maternal mortality in Ethiopia and is working towards achieving the Nairobi Summit’s goal of ‘zero preventable maternal deaths’ through the Hamlin College of Midwives’ training and placement of midwives.

Over 170 midwives have graduated from the Hamlin College of Midwives since its inception in 2007. These exceptional graduates are now working in over 50 Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics in rural health centres.

The downstream effects of a Hamlin midwife are remarkable – when a Hamlin midwife arrives, new cases of obstetric fistula drop to almost zero in nearby villages. Hamlin midwives are also preventing countless maternal and neonatal deaths. In 2018, they delivered 30,004 babies, provided 47,681 antenatal visits and family planning support to 145,078 women.

The Programme of Action’s aims are made more attainable by the extraordinary vision of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her unwavering commitment to eradicating obstetric fistula and improving access to quality maternal healthcare in Ethiopia. Today Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has more than 550 staff who are working hard to realise this vision.

Unfinished business

The Nairobi Summit has been important in reinvigorating global interest in the ongoing challenges in the field of maternal health and the important work that is being carried out by governments, not-for-profits, grassroots organisations and other players.

Despite much unfinished business in relation to the ICPD Programme of Action, we are hopeful that with a renewed commitment and reenergised effort, sexual and reproductive health will be upheld as human rights and that the hopes of Dr Catherine Hamlin, and the wider public health community, will be realised.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation by December 25 to help train more Hamlin midwives – preventing fistula and saving lives.

Together we can eradicate fistula. Forever.

Author: Natalie Stals, medical student interning at Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation 

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