01 September 2009
Europe & Central Asia
WORKING WITH RELIGIOUS LEADERS, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
TO IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH AND END GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
MINSK, Belarus — Fifty religious leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations (FBOs) from Europe and Central Asia gathering here this week were confronted with the grim fact that every minute, one woman dies giving birth and 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease, despite the fact that 80 per cent of all maternal deaths are preventable.
They also concluded that regardless of almost universal antenatal care coverage and the high percentage of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel in many countries of the region, progress towards reducing maternal deaths has been very slow.
The meeting, hosted by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, aimed to identify good examples and share information and lessons learned to end gender-based violence and advance maternal health.
Emphasizing the importance of partnering with faith-based organizations, Thea Fierens, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: “Partnerships are not a one-way direction, partnerships work in two directions. We gain strength from partnerships when we really realize them and act accordingly. We can learn a lot from one another, by sharing knowledge and experience.”
The meeting’s participants committed to establishing connections among faith, modern medicine and community education. They also emphasized that the role of religious leaders in preventing violence within families, and mobilizing communities to use available health services, cannot be ignored, as many people seek religious leaders — and not only medical experts — for advice on social, medical and psychological issues.
Summarizing discussions of day two of the three-day meeting, Cosmin Grigorescu, Executive Director of Filantropia Federation, said: “We, as FBOs, should use our moral authority and our strength to improve the family environment and the community environment. By doing so, issues regarding contraception, population decrease and family planning - and all those things we do not yet have agreement on - could be resolved. It’s not simple on one hand, but it’s simple on the other. It’s working more with families, individuals and communities.”
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