Africa: Africa Recovery, 4/17/97

Africa: Africa Recovery, 4/17/97

Africa: Africa Recovery Date Distributed (ymd): 970417 Document reposted by APIC

The December 1996 issue of Africa Recovery is now available on the web, at

One article from this issue was previously distributed on the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List in February. This posting contains the table of contents and two additional sample articles from the publication. For more information please contact The Editor, Africa Recovery, Room S-931, United Nations, New York 10017 USA; Tel: (212)963-6857; Fax: (212)963-4556; Fax/Modem: (212)963-1193; e-mail:


Africa Recovery -- Vol. 10 No. 3 December 1996 -- Contents

* Kofi Annan elected new UN Secretary-General

Cover Story

* Africa greets new debt relief deal with praise and caution

* New debt deal for the poorest countries * How the debt initiative works

Special Report

* ECA Conference: Africa ready to boost private investment

* Major role for capital markets in Africa

* Investment must empower Africa, say heads of state and government

* African women need genuine support

* Regional markets--a necessary and attractive proposition

Also in this Issue

* Safeguarding the rights of working children

* Reconciliation crucial for Great Lakes region

* Africa pursues goal of food security

* Social progress key to Africa's growth

* New investment rules cause concern

* Micro-credit: a weapon against poverty

* Habitat II declares housing a human right

* Maternal mortality: shrouded in a 'conspiracy of silence'


* The impact of armed conflict on children: interview with Graca Machel

* A soldier for social progress: Mali's former president Amadou Toure


* Baobab

* Agenda

* Books

* Briefs

* Watch

Africa Recovery is published in English and French by the Library and Publications Division of the United Nations Department of Public Information, with support from UNDP and UNICEF. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or the publication's supporting organizations. Material from this newsletter may be freely reproduced, with attribution.

Subscribe to Africa Recovery. Annual subscriptions are available to individuals for $20 and to institutions for $35. Please send an international money order or make cheques payable in US dollars, drawn on a US bank, to the "Africa Recovery Trust Fund" and send to Circulation at the address shown above. For those who lack the means to pay the subscription fee, a limited number of complimentary subscriptions are available. Please send a clearly written application to the editor.

Editor-in-Chief: Salim Lone | Managing Editor: Mark Thomas | Deputy Editor: Nii K. Bentsi-Enchill | Staff Writer: Margaret A. Novicki | Editorial Assistant: Frehiwot Bekele | Production: Parvati McPheeters | Circulation: Alice Wairimu Kariuki


Africa Recovery, Vol. 10, No. 3 December 1996

Maternal mortality: shrouded in a 'conspiracy of silence'

By Margaret A. Novicki

More than 600 women die in pregnancy or childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa every day -- or 219,000 a year -- compared to eight a day, or 3,000 in Europe. This startling fact, plus the finding that 20 per cent more women worldwide than previously thought, or 585,000, die each year of maternal causes, are among the key issues addressed in UNICEF's Progress of Nations 1996 report. In its fourth year of publication, the report measures countries' progress on the goals agreed to at the 1990 World Summit for Children.

While the 1996 edition, in examining trends in maternal mortality and morbidity, concentrates on women as women rather than as protectors of children, it also points out that the implications of these trends for children are significant. About half of infant deaths occur in the first month of life, most of those in the first week, while many lives could have been saved by safe births and appropriate care in pregnancy and childbirth. There is therefore "a considerable overlap" between action needed to protect women and that needed to protect newborns.

Shrouded in "a conspiracy of silence," women's lack of access to modern obstetric care has meant that over 140,000 pregnant women worldwide die of haemorrhaging; about 75,000 die from self-inflicted abortions; another 75,000 die in the convulsions of eclampsia; 100,000 die of sepsis infections from an unhealed uterus or retained placenta; and another 40,000 die from obstructed labour. For every woman who dies, an additional 30 incur hidden injuries, infections and disabilities which often go untreated and cause lifelong, debilitating pain.

The Progress of Nations notes that little attention traditionally has been given to maternal mortality and morbidity because they are seen as a "women's problem" and women are conditioned "not to complain, but to cope." The powerlessness of poor women in many societies causes them to suffer in silence rather than defy cultural norms and traditions, some of which contribute to pregnancy's costly toll.

Calling maternal deaths both "a tragedy for individual families" and "an indicator of the wider tragedy of neglect" of women's lives and needs, UNICEF notes that beyond simply improving health in developing countries via prevention and awareness campaigns, priority must be placed on providing every pregnant woman with access to modern obstetric care in a health unit or hospital.

While it is important to put resources into high-quality family planning and prenatal care, proper training of birth attendants, and the identification of high-risk pregnancies, these measures alone will have little impact on the overall death toll if modern care is not available on time to the 15 per cent of pregnancies that require it.

UNICEF stresses that such care is affordable even in the largest and poorest nations, which usually have health units and district hospitals that, with minimum upgrading, can provide needed obstetric care. Reducing maternal deaths and injuries, the report says, is "therefore not a matter of possibilities but of priorities." At the end of the 20th century, the world is guilty of "a colossal failure of imagination" if it fails to address this key health issue.

[Note: Statistics from the Progress of Nations report are available on the UNICEF web site at]


Africa Recovery, Vol. 10, No. 3 December 1996

Under the Baobab Tree

[The African Baobab is one of the world's hardiest trees, thriving in even the most arid environment. It is also the tree under which some Africans traditionally meet to decide issues of common concern.]

By Djibril Diallo

"The rights enshrined in our new constitution will be empty and our democracy will remain fragile if they do not bring with them improvements in the lives of people, especially of those who bear the burden of poverty and inequality."

That is what South African President Nelson Mandela told a group of senior international journalists who traveled to his country to learn about nationwide efforts to eradicate poverty. The visit coincided with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty -- 17 October -- which was established by a UN General Assembly resolution.

The 17 October commemoration had special meaning because it took place during the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, also declared by the General Assembly. To mark these important occasions, my colleagues from UNDP's Division of Public Affairs and I invited four teams of about 10 representatives of the international media to travel to four continents to see for themselves how people are struggling to overcome the worse aspects of poverty. One group went to Peru and Bolivia, another to Yemen and Djibouti, the third to Croatia, and the last group to Mozambique and South Africa.

I led the team that traveled to Africa. The group included reporters from such diverse media as The New York Times, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, The Courier Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, Le Soir of Belgium, the German Press Agency, the Pan-African News Agency and the South African Press Association.

Without a doubt, the trip's highlight was our private meeting with President Mandela at his residence in Johannesburg. All the journalists were struck by his openness and candour in responding to their questions. Mr. Mandela talked to them about the steps his government is taking to improve education, provide nutrition services for school children, broaden access to free health care for pregnant mothers and children, and repair and build infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.

The day before we met with Mr. Mandela, we drove to a black township called Kgotsong near Bothaville, about a three hours' drive from Johannesburg. We were all impressed by a local women's initiative to solve one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa today: a housing crisis which has left 7 million South Africans without adequate shelter. That is about the same as the population of my country, Senegal.

"I never thought that I would own a house like this," Gladys Mpitso told us from the living room of her new home. She recalled a day six months earlier when a handful of women had helped her drag her belongings into the cement building. It has three bedrooms, a separate kitchen and a bathroom -- a far cry from Gladys' last home, a dilapidated, single-room shack made from discarded lumber and corrugated tin. That dwelling was cramped, but still housed three generations of her family. Shack-dwellers in Kgotsong are not unlike millions of other South Africans who live in impoverished squatter camps, lacking electricity, running water or proper sewerage. Their "homes" offer little protection from the elements.

Gladys owes her new home to an organization that she put together with her neighbours, the Kgotsong Housing Development Association. The members -- about 100 -- have already built 28 houses with their own hands. Most members are women because many of the community's men are away looking for jobs in distant gold mines or in Johannesburg.

It took only five days for Gladys and four other women to build a three-room house from scratch. They need only some technical advice from a qualified architect, usually a man who donates his time. On average, the houses they build cost each family about 11,000 rand, a fraction of the 45,000 rand it would have cost if built by commercial contractors.

The resilience of the people of Kgotsong brought to mind another praiseworthy bootstrap effort across the border in Mozambique. The people of the small village of Cassupe, in the country's northern province of Tete, are rebuilding their homes. They came to the area after having spent 10 years in refugee camps in Malawi. Nason Manase, the village chief, told us that people started coming back home when they saw the changing face of the country in the aftermath of the civil war. Many were confronted with the dual problem of securing adequate shelter and finding a way to earn a livelihood. As in South Africa, the assistance provided by organizations such as UNDP was only a supplement to what the villagers had already done themselves. Today Cassupe has become a neat row of thatched-roof huts, and there's even a local market.

UNDP's Resident Representative in Mozambique, Emmanuel Dierckx De Casterle, told the journalists at a briefing that initiatives like the one in Cassupe are only one example of how UNDP and communities everywhere are working together on grassroots initiatives.

Both De Casterle and David Whaley, the UNDP Resident Representative in South Africa, agree that "bottom-up" action may be the key to development in the future. Such action has worked for people like Gladys Mpitso. It can also work for people in nearly every other country of the world.

From: Message-Id: <199704172253.PAA06885@igc3> Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 18:52:51 -0500 Subject: Africa: Africa Recovery

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific