Parliament has session on child survival and maternal health [Archives:2008/1182/Local News]

August 18 2008

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
SANA'A, Aug. 15 ) As part of its efforts to promote safe motherhood and AIDS combating legislation, the Yemeni Parliament invited UNICEF and UNFPA representatives to talk about the Millennium Development Goals and parliamentarians' role in accelerating Yemen's achievement of these goals, particularly numbers 4 and 5 relating to child survival and maternal health.

Kamal Bin Abdullah, chief of Young Child Survival and Development at UNICEF, explained to those parliamentarians attending the seminar Yemen's situation in relation to achieving the MDGs.

“Parliamentarians are the voice of the people and they have the responsibility to legislate laws that will help the nation's development. This is why it's crucial for MPs to understand the development situation in Yemen and how its achievement of these MDGs could be accelerated,” Bin Abdullah said. He referred to an international meeting of MPs in Cape Town, South Africa last year wherein a large delegation of Yemeni MPs headed by Speaker of Parliament Yahya Al-Raie participated in the discussions and agreed on future action plans to support Yemen's development.

As a result of the Cape Town meeting, Parliament committed to obtaining results for children by scaling up low-cost interventions, strengthening evidence-based solutions for integrated community-based approaches, measuring results to improve accountability and tracking progress, building effective partnerships, leveraging resources and implementing effective program communication and advocacy strategies.

Bin Abdullah emphasized that much could be done through even very simple measures, such as breastfeeding infants exclusively for the first six months and washing hands before eating.

“The science of child survival has reached critical mass knowledge of many evidence-based and cost-effective interventions to address the major killers of children,” he said.

The parliamentary session was quite timely as the Safe Motherhood Law and the Combating AIDS and Protecting AIDS Patients' Law will be forwarded to Parliament for discussion and approval.

“The two laws have been tentatively approved, having been presented to Parliament as a whole. They also have been discussed in the health and jurisprudence committees, both of which have agreed on the need for such legislation. We'll be discussing them soon item-by-item before they are approved finally,” explained MP A. Bari Dughaish of Parliament's Public Health and Population Committee.

Parliament currently has suspended its operations for the annual vacation, but will recommence its duties on Oct. 10. Dughaish expressed his optimism that these two pieces of legislation will be approved because they aim at the overall good of the nation, adding that, “Everyone wants it; it was just a matter of conveying the right message and learning how to promote and advocate new ideas in the right way.”

Earlier, three issues in the Safe Motherhood Law raised points of disagreement and heated debate within Parliament.

They were: defining the minimum marriage age, criminalizing female gentile mutilation and requiring premarital testing.

However, positive advocacy and civil society organizations' campaigning have promoted these issues, so they'll likely garner a better response when discussed in October.