FIRST Lady Esther Lungu says women should take personal responsibility to access sexual reproductive health services to reduce maternal and perinatal deaths in the country. Mrs Lungu says women should develop interest in fighting sexual reproductive health concerns to supplement other stakeholders’ efforts. The First Lady was speaking yesterday during the launch of the commemoration of Safe Motherhood Week. Mrs Lungu, who commended the United Nations (UN) family for the support to the health sector in the country, said there is need to improve reproductive health delivery because it is a major socioeconomic development milestone.
“We should thank the UN for being there for us. We should appreciate them and show our seriousness and commitment as we work with them. If we are not serious, we shall demoralise their efforts,” Mrs Lungu said. She said despite widespread global attention to safe motherhood, there is still insufficient progress made on reducing maternal deaths.
The First Lady, however, stated that Government is focused on reducing maternal mortality to 70 out of 100,000 live births by 2030, in line with the sustainable development goals. She said among other reproductive health issues affecting women and girls is obstetric fistula, which is a result of prolonged obstructed labour without timely access to emergency caesarean section.
“As a country, we estimate that over 500 women are living with fistula, a situation that is disheartening. Besides fistula, many of our women cannot access reproductive health services, including family planning commodities, and child marriage compounds our challenge in maternal health even much more,” she said. Medical personnel in Mkushi have since Monday operated on 11 fistula cases, six caesarean section and six bilateral tubal ligation – the permanent blockage of fallopian tubes.
And Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said Government is committed to seeing women and girls’ lives safeguarded and provided with access to good health. Dr Chilufya also encouraged pregnant women to seek medical attention during the early stages of conception as this will contribute to reducing maternal mortality in the country.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Gift Malunga reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to supporting Government’s effort on combating sexual reproductive health challenges. Ms Malunga said Zambia has made progress in saving mothers from dying during pregnancy while giving birth and after delivery, but women are still dying from the preventable diseases. “Through UNFPA, 2,504 fistula repair surgeries have been conducted countrywide since 2005,” Ms Malunga said. The First Lady also paid a courtesy call on chiefs Shaibila, Mboloma, Chitambo, Mulungwa and Chitina of Mkushi district