Each year the small West African nation of Burkina Faso marks International Women’s Day with a public holiday and an information campaign to highlight a particular priority issue.
This year, that issue was maternal mortality, a pertinent topic for Burkina Faso, which has a very high rate and has been slow to improve its figures. This impoverished and largely arid country in the African Sahel loses some 2,000 women in child birth each year with a maternal mortality rate of 307 women for every 100,000 births. In developed Belgium, a country with a similar population size to that of Burkina Faso, ten women die in child birth each year.
Maternal mortality is a major health problem in many developing African countries where access to health services and low female education rates all increase the risks for expectant mothers. The European Union Delegation to Burkina Faso is committed to helping the government of Burkina Faso to reduce maternal mortality and currently supports national efforts via varying mechanisms which include general budget support to finance the national health budget, NGO projects in the field to improve access conditions for women and promotion of gender issues in political dialogue.
Marie Noelle Grell from the EU Delegation to Burkina Faso explains how staff marked the International Women's Day, 8th March, in the video below:
In 2011 the EU funded a WHO project which aimed to improve maternal health via the following actions:
* Specialised training of doctors in obstetric care
* Training of 52 gynaecologists regarding maternal health information tools
* Capacity building via training in emergency obstetric, neonatal care and the treatment of female mutilation
* Publication of manuals on best clinical practice
* African day against maternal mortality
* Promotion of breastfeeding
* Purchase of medical equipment such as forceps
* National evaluation of obstetric needs in order to improve care
Other projects currently financed in the health domain by the EU in Burkina Faso include:
- A project with the non-governmental organisation, Equilibres et Population, which aims at increasing access to reproductive health services for teenage girls and young married women.
- A project with the CCMSA (Caisse Centrale de la Mutualité de la Société Agricole), which aims to increase financial access to health services via the creation of a local health insurance system.
As announced by the President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso in 2010, a further 1 billion euro will be made available to accelerate progress towards the eight Millennium Development Goals, one of which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015 and Burkina is set to benefit from an additional budget of approx €30 million.
These additional EU funds aim to accelerate progress towards reducing maternal health will soon be invested in healthcare via the national budget. It is hoped that this financial boost can ensure better access and utilisation of health services, improve use of family planning services and ensure quality healthcare – all of which can help reduce maternal mortality.
The status of women in Burkina Faso is intricately linked to the issue of access to social services and ensuring that the voice of women is heard. The annual International Women's Day celebration offers a valuable platform to reach political leaders and donors so that maternal health remains a top priority.