WHILE Tanzania has made gains in reducing under-five mortality, progress has been slower in terms of maternal and neonatal deaths.
According to the USAID 2017 Maternal and Child Health Fact Sheet, maternal mortality rates remain high at 556 deaths per 100,000 live births due to challenges such as inadequate quality of services, lack of access to emergency obstetric care, limited ability of women to independently access health services, and direct causes such as postpartum hemorrhage.
“Neonatal deaths, which continue to comprise a significant proportion of underfive deaths, highlight the importance of responding to major causes such as infection, asphyxia, HIV, malaria, and congenital syphilis,” the sheet read in part.
While the country as a whole is challenged by the reduction of maternal and child deaths, there are particular regions that have made significant strides in making a difference. Kigoma region is set to record considerable mileage in reducing maternal and child mortalities in Tanzania, after a group of partners decided to shore up the Tanzanian government’s efforts in elevating the health sector by constructing several health centres and purchasing medical equipments.
Thanks to EngenderHealth, a locally-registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Center for Diseases Control (CDC) and H & B foundation Agerup, Kigoma has been provided with 26 new health facilities.
This work aims at increasing access to quality family planning and other reproductive health services in the region through expanding availability of comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care, comprehensive post abortion care and FP services, with emphasis on long acting reversible contraception and permanent methods in the region.
In Kigoma region, where a family has an average of 12 people, maternal death rates are closely linked with the high fertility rates and low socio-economic status of women, especially the lack of influence that the latter have over their own healthcare.
Speaking during the official handover of the facilities at Mwakizega Village, Uvinza district the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Dr Hamis Kigwangallah thanked the partners for their generous support.
“We are very grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies and Foundations H & B Agerup and EngenderHealth, for the construction of these facilities that will provide the much needed- maternal health to our women and children in Kigoma region.
“We call upon other stakeholders and well-wishers to come up and offer similar support in other regions,” he said when receiving one of the dispensaries at Uvinza District. He detailed that most of the deaths occurred because expectant mothers failed to get maternal services on scheduled time while others were forced to deliver in their homes due to the long distance to the health services.
“The construction of these centres will help in providing proper health care and delivery areas to our mothers. It’s my hope that women will start attending the clinics when they are within twelve weeks of their pregnancies,” he observed.
EngenderHealth deputy Country representative Lulu Ng’wanakilala noted that “We are very thankful for the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies and foundation H&B Agerup, and strong partnerships with government which has been made all of this possible.
We will continue to strengthen our collaboration to improve the health and wellbeing of women, men and families in the region.” She noted that the total cost for the support was worth 1,342,144 US dollars in which 1,138,244 US dollars was used for construction and renovation, and 203,900 US dollars for procurement of equipments.
“The work included construction and equipped maternal buildings that include labour wards, antenatal and postnatal clinics, rooms to provide service to women with post abortion complications and family planning as well as maternity wards in 24 dispensaries,” said Ng’wanakilala.
The Deputy Country Representative also highlighted that through the support, 2 dispensaries have been renovated and equipped, making a total of 26 dispensaries that have been upgraded to provide quality maternal, neonatal, newborn and reproductive health care in Kigoma Region.
Bloomberg Philanthropies representative Dr Godson Maro revealed that, they have been working in the country since 2006. “During that time, we have managed to achieve a lot including upgrading of a total of 17 health centres that are now offering labour/ maternal and neonatal services and thus contributing to reduce the number of maternal deaths.”
He noted that among other things which they are dealing with is the expansion of availability and use of family planning, especially Long-Acting Reversible Contraception and Per manent Methods (LARC/ PMs), and Comprehensive Post-Abortion Care (CPAC) in the region.
“This is achieved by strengthening capacity of family planning providers and health facilities to offer quality family planning and CPAC services (Capacity building and infrastructure improvement),” said Dr Maro.
He added that they also support family planning service provision, especially on hard to reach areas through service days, outreach and family planning weeks (Services), they also increase community awareness of and demand for modern contraceptive methods as well as related maternal and reproductive health services (Demand creation).
On the other hand, Dr Maro urged the government to help in curbing an acute shortage of anestheologists by employing more staffs to help when it comes to theatre/operation issues.
“We urge the government to put more efforts on the anesthesiology cadre that is highly needed in every facility that is providing surgical services. The number available in Kigoma is very inadequate.”
The 2015 Kigoma Reproductive Health Survey, among other things found that long distance to stations that provide healthy services is a barrier for many women to access care, particularly in rural areas.
The cost of transportation prevents many women from deliver ing in facilities, even if they have made transportation plans. Among the suggested solutions was to increase geographic coverage of quality health service providers.
In addition, transport voucher programs and community transport funds could help to offset the transportation costs (which are higher in rural areas). The above mentioned constructed health centers will go a long way to checking this challenge.