The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight objectives agreed by all 193 members of the United Nations and 23 international organisations. With 2015 set as the deadline, the global goals include eradicating extreme poverty, fighting disease epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, achieving universal primary education and developing a global partnership for development.

Originally set out at the Millennium Summit in 2000, progress towards achieving the goals has been mixed with advancement for some goals but others proving more difficult.

One of those still lacking is MDG 5, the aim of reducing child mortality rates and ensuring universal access to reproductive healthcare. It is hoped that improvements for these issues will be discussed during the two-day conference, beginning today.   

The aim of the conference, taking place in Kampala, Uganda, is to share best practices across the region and determine how to ensure the health of girls and women remain a priority.

Professor Fred T. Sai, a Ghanaian physician and women’s health advocate, said at the pre-conference:

“Youth are one of the world’s greatest resources, and we must ensure that they are empowered with the tools and the knowledge they need to lead long, healthy and productive lives.”

Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Africa Regional Director of Partners in Population and Development, explained:

“By participating in this important meeting, African leaders were decisively demonstrating their commitment to improving the lives of Africa’s girls and women. On this continent and around the world, girls and women play a critical role in their families, communities and nations, we owe it to them to do all we can to protect their health and well-being.”

Over the last 20 years, Sub-Saharan Africa has made progress towards improving maternal, sexual and reproductive health, with a 26 percent drop the region’s maternal mortality rate. However, many significant challenges remain, 39 percent of pregnancies are still unattended and only 17 percent of married women use modern contraception.

On average, there is a one in 31 chance a Sub-Saharan woman will die during pregnancy or childbirth, and over 500 women die each day of pregnancy-related causes.

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