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U.S. Doctors for Africa, a Los-Angeles-based non-profit organization, convened the 2nd African First Ladies Health Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel Century City April 2-4. The Summit provided a platform for the first ladies to make individual presentations and obtain strategic partners to help them find the best ways to solve their health-centered problems.
The Summit included these wives of African presidents: Penehupifo Pohamba (First Lady of Namibia), Djene Kaba Conde (First Lady of Guinea), Traore Mintou Doucure (First Lady of Mali), Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou (First Lady of Niger), Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza (First Lady of Mozambique). It also included Matilda Amissah-Arthur (Second Lady of Ghana), and government ministers from Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville and Angola.
In a personal interview with The Final Call Newspaper (www.finalcall.com), Madame Issoufou Mahamadou (first lady of Niger) said she is pleased to know that brothers and sisters in the west are concerned about the people and issues of Africa.
Mrs. Amissah-Arthur detailed the country’s high rates of maternal deaths through a slide presentation. In 2012, there were 2,700 maternal deaths, she stated. The lifetime risks of dying in pregnancy is one in 68, she continued.
Many of the pregnancies that occur within teenagers have complications, Mrs. Amissah-Arthur noted. The pregnant teenagers are kicked out of homes and schools and that stigmatism causes them to seek various dangerous methods of abortions, she elaborated.
“The African first ladies as powerful as they are, as influential as they are, they have been neglected from participating in some of the most critical pieces on our continent,” said Ted Alemayhu, the founder and CEO of U.S. Doctors for Africa.
“I wouldn’t dare say it was purposeful but there was not enough effort to get them engaged or to recognize them—their brilliance, their knowledge, their expertise,” said Mr. Alemayhu.
The first Summit was held in 2009 in Los Angeles. Mr. Alemayhu’s concept as a co-founder of the Summit is to bring partners and sponsors to support the first ladies.
Annette Richardson, Senior Advisor for the United Nations Office for Partnerships, made an opening address. Dr. Judy Kuriansky, noted psychologist, served as mistress of ceremonies for the three-day event.
Other speakers included Dr. Keith Black (chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), Trish Karlin (vice president, Global Business Planning for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation), U.S. Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Karen Bass, retired Congresswoman Diane Watson (all from Los Angeles) and Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam.
The Summit has brought about good results, according to Mr. Alemayhu. Since 2009, some major corporations have adopted initiatives to help the first ladies, including: Proctor and Gamble’s (a sponsor of this year’s Summit) creation of a clean water initiative, Merk Pharmaceuticals’ launch of a cervical cancer initiative, Mr. Alemayhu stated.
Rep. Waters presented the first ladies with a certificate of special recognition to help them remember their visit. She’s felt a very deep connection to the nations and people of Africa throughout her career, Rep. Waters told the recipients. She’s convinced, “If we’re going to get things done, it’s because of the women of all of the African countries,” Rep. Waters stated.
(More information and photographs from the African First Ladies Health Summit 2013 may be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/African-First-Ladies-Health-Summit-2013/522455067802213?ref=tn_tnmn. More information about U.S. Doctors for Africa may be found at www.usdfa.org)