September 7, 2012 in Parakou northern Benin...
A thousand women travelled from many parts of northern Benin to the town of Parakou last week to plea for better health facilities. They took to the streets singing hymns of praise and holding high banners that read "2015 is close. Authorities of the country, keep your commitments, "No development without a strong maternal health" and "Christian women of Benin mobilize for the MDGs."
The women who are part of the Women’s Christian Union (UEEB) had the supprt of Micah Challenge Benin in preparing their pleas to present to the Mayor and municipal authorities. The President of the UEEB presented a powerful and wide ranging advocay message but the key point was a plea for dignity and care for thousands of pregnant women in the area.
The main requests of the women are:
- Free antenatal care
- Maternity care to cover disadvantaged areas
- Recruitment of a larger number of gynecologists
- Health workers to treat patients with respect
- Punishment of health workers who neglect patients
- Encouragement for women to go to prenatal and postnatal consultations
- Capacity building of women from very poor communities
The Mayor of Parakou congratulated the women for taking the initiative to advocate for justice in health facilities and care and pledged to take up the issues of the women.
Jean Kpetere, the coordinator of Micah Challenge Benin said, 'The women had hope as they joined the conference that conditions will improve. I know they won’t give up their advocacy message till MDGs 4 and 5 improve.'
it is on this note of hope that women joined their conference venue have been met Micah Challenge supported by Benin to carry further their advocacy message that Benin, failing to achieve the objectives Millennium development of the approach considerably especially regarding MDGs 4 and 5 respectively 'reduce child mortality' and 'Improve maternal health'
Before taking their banners onto the streets, the women heard about a study on maternal and child health in the district. The study based in the Dronga district found many women died either during pregnancy or childbirth or after childbirth - 44 deaths in 2011 out of a total of 18,077 live births.
The study found that there were many factors contributing to maternal mortality. In some cases women need to make sure they go to their doctor or clinic for check-ups. Other causes need government action – having well trained staff, adequate water and sanitation, and staff who are motivated to care for poor patients.
The President of the UEBB urged women at the march to take personal repsonsibility for their maternal health and to lobby decision-makers for better services. "We all need to monitor maternal health in Benin – we do not want to just blame others. We want to work together", she said.
The 1000 women who had taken the time to come to Parakou made a personal commitment to play their role for the reduction of child mortality (MDG 4) and improving maternal health (MDG 5) in Benin.
 This is equivalent to 233 deaths per 100,000 live births (in Europe, the figure would be 7 or 8)
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