Reproductive Health

"Each year...more than half a million women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth alone - a number that has hardly changed in 20 years. In 2006, 74 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa were young women." - Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization

It has often been said that the health of a nation can be measured by the health of its women, and indeed, women’s health is a key indicator of overall equity in a health system. Yet, of all the Millennium Development Goals, those associated with women’s health are the least far along, despite being some of the most achievable in terms of technical knowledge and resources.

Although funding for global health is at record levels, the achievement of the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 remains severely challenged in the poorest countries of the world.  Seven of the eight MDGs are directly or indirectly related to reproductive health, yet we have not seen significant progress in this area in the last decade. At the September 2005 World Summit, global leaders at the highest level endorsed the goal of universal access to reproductive health.  Although some achievements have been realized, much more has yet to be done.  The need for expanded reproductive health options and access for the poorest populations, and a renewed commitment to reproductive rights, is more urgent than ever.

MLI has focused on applying its leadership development approach to elevate reproductive health broadly and family planning specifically within MLI supported ministries. By linking MLI’s health financing and aid effectiveness policy reform efforts to improve reproductive health outcomes, MLI has fostered progress in ministries of health and has supported peer sharing and learning to advance RH policies and programs.

The MLI RH Countries

The nature of the reproductive health challenges we face today are such that any technical response must be rooted in political commitment and a rights-based approach to systems reform.  In recognition of this need and with the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, MLI has implemented a Reproductive Health component to MLI, working specifically in Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.  

In all three MLI RH countries, progress toward MDG 5a, reducing maternal mortality by three quarters, and MDG 5b, achieving universal access to reproductive health, has been slow and it is unlikely that targets will be reached by 2015. These countries have health indicators that are among the lowest in the world and when compounded with largely inadequate infrastructure and extreme poverty, the process of implementing reform proves challenging. Yet, all three of these countries have reaffirmed their commitment to improving health outcomes by making the health of women a priority.

MLI has developed technical assistance plans for each of the three RH focus countries - Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.  The technical support in each country varies, although all three countries include a focus on advancing RH policy reform to improve access to reproductive health services with a specific emphasis on family planning. RH policy is also aimed at ultimately improving RH indicators. In keeping with MLI's approach to leadership enhancement, MLI has worked with each country to define specific technical assistance plans and develop learning tools to increase core competencies needed to move RH policy forward and create a supportive peer learning network.

In order to strengthen the reproductive health work of MLI, we have established the MLI Reproductive Health Task Force, composed of a select group of 10 current and former high-level government officials, representatives from donor organizations, multi-lateral institutions and non-governmental organizations who serve in an advisory capacity to the Reproductive Health component of MLI.  This group provides overall guidance, support, and outreach to political leaders, and helps bring visibility to the initiative in relevant forums from the national to global levels. See who is on the Task Force.

WHO Report on Women and Health

MLI supported the World Health Organization and the Council of Women World Leaders to produce and disseminate the WHO report, Women and Health: Today’s Evidence; Tomorrow’s Agenda.  MLI also provided support to the Council of Women World Leaders to increase the visibility of the report and its conclusions.

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    Leading Global Health Blog

    Even though I have worked in Sierra Leone in the past, the role of MLI Country Lead has given me the opportunity to build upon these previous experiences and to work closely with members of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), to support the implementation of health policies and reforms that they have prioritized.


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