The annual congress of the African Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (Société Africaine des Gynécologues et Obstétriciens – SAGO) took place in Niger from 21-23 January 2013 under the theme “Mortality Costs and Maternal and Neonatal Morbidity in Africa”. The meeting was attended by the Prime Minister of Niger, and first ladies of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. The UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Dr Luis Loures also participated in the congress as part of his official visit to the country.
Launched in 1988 by African ob-gyns to strengthen scientific discourse and eliminate barriers between African scientists, SAGO members comprise countries mostly from west and central Africa. Focussing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5 to reduce child and maternal mortality rates by 2015, SAGO aims to define standards of practice for gynaecologists and obstetricians.
The Prime Minister of Niger, His Excellency Brigi Rafin said that the Congress was held at a time where surveys show weak progress in reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in Sub-Saharan countries. "Every day 24 women die giving birth and 72 newborn children die in my country," he said.
Niger has made considerable progress in maternal and child health because of its policies, resources and strategies, outstripping other countries in the region. Government scale up of high-impact child health services, including eliminating user fees for pregnant women and children and strengthening child nutrition, has brought down annual mortality rate by 5.1%.
Dr Loures pegged these achievements to the country’s transformative and visionary political commitment, backed by judicious budgetary decisions and a focus on high impact strategies for maternal and child health.
A joint agreement of cooperation was signed UNAIDS and SAGO to accelerate the implementation of the Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive. “The promotion of maternal and child health is the basis for the achievement of the Global Plan,” said Dr Loures.
According to Dr Loures, professional organisations such as SAGO are uniquely placed to advocate for the rights of their patients and clients, particularly women living with HIV. These organizations can ensure that women are not stigmatized, their confidentiality is not violated, or that they are not forced and coerced into accepting services. They can serve as a collective workforce towards achieving the health MDGs and also provide a forum to expand knowledge, exchange information and legitimise and amplify the contribution of the members.