European Women’s Forum: Beijing +15 – The EU must end the emergency of maternal mortality in Africa

European Women’s Forum: Beijing +15 – The EU must end the emergency of maternal mortality in Africa


(Brussels 4 February) Amnesty International is calling on the EU to focus on reducing maternal deaths as the European Women’s Forum Beijing + 15 gets underway in Cádiz on 4 and 5 February. In a letter to the Spanish EU presidency, Amnesty International urges the EU to advance women’s rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights.

“Maternal mortality is a health emergency that can be addressed and prevented. The EU has repeatedly said they are serious about achieving access to sexual and reproductive health and other MDGs but I would urge them to match their words with more concrete actions,” says Nicolas Beger, director of Amnesty International’s EU office.
An Amnesty International report published last week (Giving life, risking death – Maternal mortality in Burkina Faso) shows that more than 2,000 women die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in Burkina Faso. Women die because they cannot reach a health facility in time, because they cannot pay fees that medical personnel demand or because of shortages of equipment and qualified medical staff. Human rights violations such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual violence and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information are also underlying causes.

Amnesty International calls on the EU, as one of the biggest donors to Burkina Faso, to continue supporting the country in its efforts to increase access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.  The EU should prioritize the poorest regions with the highest mortality ratios in its development work, but also work on a political level to ensure that the Burkinabe government enforces a 1996 law banning female genital mutilation and promoting access to information and facilities.

The EU committed itself to the promotion of gender equality in its external and development policies after the 1995 World Conference on women in Beijing. 15 years after this landmark meeting, Amnesty International calls on the EU to further commit itself to the protection of human rights within the existing MDG framework, to promote a rights perspective to end maternal mortality and to provide for adequate monitoring to achieve greater accountability. These changes have become even more pertinent after a European Parliament resolution in 2008, expressing strong concern over the lack of progress in reducing maternal mortality.

“We must not forget that the highest attainable standard of healthcare is a human right as important as freedom of speech. The EU needs to address and prevent maternal mortality in countries such as Burkina Faso,” concludes Beger.

The full report is available Download PDF attachement