At the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality, we believe that when it comes to maternal health, if we continue to have a fragmented approach, we will continue to get fragmented results.
The ultimate goal of the Alliance is to deliver equity of access to quality maternal health at all levels, and a systematic approach to maternal health will be required in order to achieve this. High level meetings such as the recent Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) Meeting in Malta on Maternal Health and Refugee Women represent a major opportunity to highlight our work with policy makers.
The meeting, which was organised by Women in Parliaments Global Forum together with MSD for Mothers, involved a group of carefully selected stakeholders working together to address the issue of migrant and refugee women’s health and determine the concrete policy steps that EU institutions and national governments must take to ensure that every woman in Europe has equally high quality and affordable access to maternal healthcare.
Continuing the work we did at the Women Deliver meeting last year, and then again within the context of the European Health Gastein Forum, the Alliance presented the matrix for maternal health assessment and the 5 dimensions: Person-centric approach; Timeliness and accessibility, equitability; Resilience and efficiency; Safety, quality and standards.
The matrix was not only discussed at length, but its five dimensions and indicators were firmly endorsed by Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, and also the President of Malta H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. This endorsement is very exciting for the Alliance members, and is also a firm acknowledgment of the need for a structured approach to tackling the problem of maternal health equality and helping policy move forward.
Prior to the meeting, our discussions were pre-empted by a visit to a local refugee camp, where people of all ages resided, having fled war in Syria and Iraq. Expecting a gulf in terms of culture and language, I found myself easily conversing with the people there in English about current affairs – discussing the current US President, for example. It struck me that these people could quite easily be my neighbours, yet a few hours later and mere miles away I would be in the Maltese Presidential Palace discussing their future.
The hardships that the refugees face are unimaginable – as well as an often perilous journey, refugee women at the camp told me that the trip is also accompanied by the constant threat of rape. While we have all read similar stories, being there and hearing them speak first-hand about systematic rapes and all sort of abuses is an eye opener I wish much more people could experience.
The meeting concluded with a Joint Call to Action; President HE Coleiro Preca asserted that we must commit ourselves to developing respectful policies that target the diverse needs and requirements of pregnant and postnatal women, as well as refugee women, in credible and effective ways. Echoing our calls for a systematic approach, it was agreed that the EU should have a harmonised set of policies when it comes to maternal health. Crucially, it was also stated that the migration action plan of the EU must embrace the issue of maternal health for migrant and refugee women, while these women must also be active participants in the development of these policies.
The synergistic collaboration such as that achieved at last week’s WIP meeting enables the Alliance to take big steps forward in our ambitious plans to achieve equity of access to quality maternal health care. The entire maternal health ecosystem must be empowered in order to achieve tangible and sustainable results.
The endorsement and adoption of our matrix is just one step on our journey towards equality of access to quality maternal care across Europe. We now intend to use the five pillars and corresponding indicators of the matrix to assess the current state of maternal healthcare in different countries across Europe. This will allow us identify best practices, differences and gaps amongst the 27 EU member states, as well as potential champions at national level.