July 13, 2012
Regional maternal health experts gather for inaugural summit
(DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA) On Monday, July 9, 2012, Venture Strategies Innovations (VSI) opened the inaugural Regional Experts’ Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, bringing together representatives from 12 African countries to share the latest research and engage in cross-country learning on key maternal health interventions, including misoprostol. The Summit, co-sponsored by AGOTA (Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Tanzania) and ECSAOGS (East, Central and Southern African Association of Obstetrical and Gynaecological Societies), convened nearly 40 leading obstetrician/gynecologists and technical experts for a week of capacity-building focused on supporting policy and programs to accelerate the reduction of maternal mortality in Africa.
The Regional Experts’ Summit centered on best practices and lessons learned with regard to introducing misoprostol into maternal health programs and policies. Misoprostol, a simple medication, is an effective and affordable maternal health solution that addresses two of the leading causes of maternal deaths worldwide – postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), or excessive bleeding after childbirth, and unsafe abortion. The Summit sessions covered a range of topics including the latest research and policy guidance on the use of misoprostol in maternal health, training approaches, monitoring and evaluation and tactics for effective communication and media relations. The week’s activities commenced with presentations by representatives from each of the 12 countries on their national maternal health indicators and challenges. The subsequent three days featured presentations as obstetrician/gynecologists Dr. Momade Bay Ustá (Mozambique), Dr. John Muganda (Rwanda) and Dr. Amanuel Gessessew (Ethiopia) shared results and policy outcomes of pilot projects in their respective countries focused on saving women’s lives from PPH and unsafe abortion.
Though conditions and programs vary by country, the Regional Experts’ Summit participants shared a common commitment to supporting the introduction and integration of misoprostol into national health programs to reduce maternal mortality. Among the 12 countries present, VSI has supported the registration of misoprostol for obstetric uses in six (Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia) and is currently supporting its introduction in four (Liberia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Zimbabwe).*
During strategic break-out sessions, those countries currently working towards introduction of misoprostol gleaned lessons learned from the experiences of those countries that have achieved registration and completed successful pilot programs. Regardless of the status of misoprostol in their respective countries, each country group developed a strategic plan to share with maternal health stakeholders upon their return home. Across countries, a recurring theme voiced by participants was the priority of further expansion of distribution of misoprostol for prevention of PPH at home births, as studies in six countries had demonstrated the safety and feasibility of this strategy.
Today, at the closing of the week’s activities, the Experts’ Summit participants committed to establishing a network to support continued cross-country collaboration as well as to publishing the proceedings of the Summit for the benefit of the larger maternal health community. In his closing remarks, Professor Joseph Karanja, President of ECSAOGS and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Nairobi, summed up the group’s enthusiasm, “We are dedicated. We are ready to work, so we accelerate a reduction in maternal mortality due to PPH and unsafe abortion, in particular using misoprostol.”
*Registration of misoprostol for postpartum hemorrhage was supported by VSI's partner organization, Venture Strategies for Health and Development, in Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.