Focus on infant healthcare

Midwives take care of newborns at the Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital in HCM City. Viet Nam has fulfilled all the MDGs aimed to stop mother and child mortalities, but the problem remains a concern, IPU-132 Assembly participants were told yesterday.
PHOTO: Focus on infant healthcare

HA NOI - Participants at the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 132nd General Assembly (IPU-132) yesterday highlighted the role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing better healthcare services for mothers and children.

They also stressed on the importance of mobilising financial sources and issuing detailed regulations on healthcare for mother and children.

Reviewing the progress of the IPU's 2012 resolution for action on healthcare as a basic right, the delegates shared their experiences and successes as well as initiatives to fulfil all commitments on healthcare access for women and children. The resolution calls for actions from IPU members to issue policies and implement necessary solutions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of under-five mortality rates by two thirds and maternal deaths by three quarters, while providing universal access to reproductive healthcare.

They agreed that since the resolution was adopted at the IPU General Assembly in Uganda in 2012, members with high rates of maternal and child deaths had actively implemented the resolution's commitments to protect the health of women and children.

Representatives from Bangladesh, Chile, Rwanda and Uganda also shared their experiences of improving healthcare for mothers and children.

Razee Mohammad Fakhrul, a member of the Bangladeshi Parliament, said that the success in his country came from campaigns to raise awareness of both parliamentarians and people.

The parliament had also set up bodies to be in charge of healthcare services, he said, adding that the media and private organisations were also involved in protecting women and children's health.

Reports from Bangladesh showed that the rate of infant mortality decreased from 144 out of 1,000 cases in 1990 to only 41 out of 1,000 cases in 2012, which was already 48 less than the target for the year. The rate of maternal deaths also decreased by two thirds.

Betty Amongi-Ongom, a member of Uganda's Parliament, said that the ministries of finance and health in her country had paid special attention to healthcare for mothers and children in recent years, especially those in vulnerable groups and those with HIV/AIDS.

Regulations on early testing and treatment for those with HIV/AIDS had been added to laws, she said, adding that all mothers were eligible for HIV tests, and new-borns with HIV/AIDS were treated and cared for.

Challenges remain

Participants also noted the challenges to healthcare services for women and children, including the high death rate of mothers due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. A report showed that on average, around 1,500 women died each day from these complications. Despite efforts to improve healthcare for mothers and children, up to 287,000 women died in 2010, and 6.9 million children died in 2011.

Truong Thi Mai, Chairwoman of the Vietnamese National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs, said that although Viet Nam had fulfilled all the MDGs aimed to stop mother and child mortalities, the problem remained a concern in many localities throughout the country.

To meet the post-2015 sustainable development goals in healthcare services for mothers and children, Viet Nam needed to make more efforts, especially for those in remote and mountainous areas, she said.

Other delegates agreed that to overcome the challenges to ensure healthcare for mothers and children, countries should stick to their political commitment, and enhance support and co-operation among IPU members and global partners.

In a related event, the IPU, in co-ordination with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, held a session yesterday to outline how the global strategy will be updated to cover the post-2015 period in line with the new sustainable development goals.

Entitled Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: Consultation on the updated Global Strategy, the session discussed a number of topics including global efforts on women and children's health and the engagement of parliaments on the issue; the position of a global framework in national policymaking; and experiences in the development of financing and accountability mechanisms for these processes.

State reception

On the same day, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung held a state-level reception for participants of the IPU 132.

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung, IPU President Saber Chowdhury and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong attended the party.

PM Dung said the success of the event cemented the role of the IPU in the international arena.

It's not only the world's largest multilateral parlimentary co-operative forum, but also contributes greatly to the United Nations in building the agenda for global sustainable development after 2015.

He also said in the current context, the threat of terrorism, land and sea conflicts and non-traditional security issues such as climate change, epidemics and food safety, countries needed to co-operate closely.

He said in order to maintain peace, stability and sustainable development, countries needed to respect the integrity and legal rights of other partners, while contributing to address common concerns.


The value of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) field missions, a cooperative effort of UN country teams and participating country parliaments, was the main topic of the Office of the Standing Committee for UN Affairs' session yesterday in Ha Noi.

At the session, held as part of the IPU-132, representatives from a dozen countries spoke about the outcomes, experience and lessons drawn from tripartite collaborations between the IPU, UN and their parliaments.

There was a clear consensus, assistance from IPU and UN agencies helped encourage female participation in parliamentary activities and helped parliaments design agendas that better served their people.

Ha Minh Hue, member of the Viet Nam National Assembly's Committee for External Relations, represented Viet Nam at the session. He chose to speak about two IPU-organised field trips in particular, a 2009 and a 2014 trip that focused on HIV/AIDS prevention.

He said the information and experiences gained proved to be useful not only for Vietnamese, but also for the international community in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The session also made the time to discuss and review various countries' parliamentary capacity to mainstream new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their work.

Sustainable development has been set as the UN's global top priority. With macroeconomic instability in many big economies, increasing inequity, serious environmental degradation, ongoing conflicts and epidemics, sustainable development is considered key in solving these issues.

The UN will set the next wave of SDGs this year, on the basis of a country's success in implementing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over the last 15 years.

Delegates said parliaments must create the necessary legal corridors for the implementation of SDGs and push public relations campaigns to reach their goals.

Boosting role

"Finding the structure of a parliamentary secretariat with maximum efficiency" was put on table as the key point for debate at the second session of the the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP) at the ongoing Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Ha Noi.

Representatives spoke of fruitful experiences in the work to boost the role of secretariat in assisting the parliaments.

On Sunday, the ASGP held its first session with a focus on public and media relations.

The ASGP is an IPU consultative body that brings together senior parliamentary officials to study parliamentary law and promote co-operation between the services of different parliaments.

The ASGP seeks to facilitate contacts between holders of the office of Secretary General in any parliamentary assembly, whether such assembly is a member of the IPU or not. ASGP membership is thus independent of the IPU.

The task of the association is to study the law, procedure, practice and working methods of different Parliaments and to propose measures for improving those methods and for securing co-operation between the services of different Parliaments.