“(Australian Aid will) increase the number of trained midwives from 2002 to 8635, and increase the number of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants from 18 to 62 per cent.”
You could feel the buzz of excitement in the Micah Challenge Australia office last year when the government’s response to the aid review boldly proclaimed that “saving the lives of poor women and children through greater access to quality maternal and child health services” would be a key development objective. This statement was coupled with positive rumblings from Mr Rudd’s office and from the halls of AusAID about the priority of health spending, coming in response to our calls for 20% of all aid dollars to be directed to this vital area.
The buzz of excitement was followed by frustration several months later. We were in the process of analysing the aid budget prior to Voices for Justice, only to find that the rhetoric about health being a growing priority didn’t seem to match the reality. Far from seeing a rapid increase in spending on health in a growing aid budget, we actually found that current commitments would lead to a decreasing proportion of money being spent on health.
We’ve been trying to get an adequate answer as to why the rhetoric and the reality don’t match up ever since. We’re still working on that one!
Some of our frustrations subsided, and some excitement returned on Australia Day, when Foreign Minister Rudd and Ethiopian Minister for Health, Dr Tedros Adhanom, announced a new bilateral agreement where Australia will contribute $43 million over four years to strengthen national health programs in Ethiopia.
This is very good news for mothers and kids in Ethiopia. It is also good news for so many Micah Challenge supporters who have been asking for more action in this area.
AusAID has funded the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia since 1984, but this new investment of funds will help to increase the number of trained midwives from 2002 to 8635, and increase the number of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants from 18 to 62 per cent. This, in turn, will help to more than halve the mortality rate of mothers dying in childbirth (from 590 to 267 deaths per 100,000 live births), and almost halve the rate of infant deaths (from 59 to 31 per 1000 live births).
At the beginning of a new year of campaigning, it’s great to be reminded about the way our voices can make a real difference.
You can read the full announcement from Mr Rudd’s office at: http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2012/kr_mr_120126.html
Written by John Beckett, National Coordinator, Micah Challenge Australia
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