IMPROVING maternal and child health is one of the priorities of the fifth phase government with the aim to reduce maternal and child mortality in the country.
Through allocation of sufficient budget for the health sector, the government has managed to improve access to health services by increasing the number of health personnel, build dispensaries in every village and ward to reduce distance, ensure availability of medical drugs and equipment but, despite the efforts maternal and child mortality rate continue to be high.
This week, the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children unveiled a new campaign aimed at joining forces of various stakeholders to support national efforts in reducing maternal and child mortality.
The campaign dubbed “Jiongeze Tuwavushe Salama" was launched in Dodoma on Tuesday by Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan. It seeks to sensitise government and religious leaders, non-governmental organisations, development partners, health service providers, families and society in general to take part in the fight against maternal and child mortality.
During the launch of the campaign in Dodoma, the Vice-President tasked regional commissioners to make the maternal and child health a long term agenda in their Regional Consultative Committees (RCCs). Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey 2015/16 indicates that maternal mortality ratio is 556 deaths per 100,000 live births.
This is equivalent to 11,000 deaths in a year and 30 deaths every day. Child mortality is 25 in every 1,000 live births. Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, said that an expectant mother was required to make the first antenatal visit as soon as she find out that she was pregnant and attend clinic for six week after giving birth.
She said that statistics shows that in every 100 expectant mothers in the country only 24 of them make their first ante- natal visits when the pregnant is less than three month, while 86 percent do not visit clinic in the first three months of their pregnancy.
Ms Mwalimu noted that expectant mothers who visit antenatal clinic four times during pregnancy were 51 per cent while 49 percent make a visit once or twice only.
Those who give births in health centres were 63 per cent while 37 per cent deliver at home. Dr Phineas Sospeter from the Ministry’s Reproductive and Child Health Section, said despite various initiatives taken by the government to improve health services, maternal mortality has continued to be high.
"The government has made efforts to increase health budget, medical equipment and drugs and the number of health personnel, but the rate of reducing maternal deaths has been very low contrary to the expectations,” Dr Phineas noted.
He said the campaign will help to increase accountability to health workers, local government, health ministry, expectant mothers and society in general on issues related to maternal and child health.
“These stakeholders are important in ensuring safe delivery such as the society to understand importance of mother and child health services such as encouraging them to attend antenatal clinic and give birth at health centres ...local government to improve road infrastructure to facilitate movement of people to the clinics and the ministry to increase the number of health personnel, supply of medical equipment and drugs and ensure availability of other services,” he explained.
He said the number of maternal deaths was still high and it was unacceptable, “We want to reduce the number of deaths from 556 to 292 per 100,000 live births by 2020,” he said.
Dr Sospeter noted that the difference between the new campaign and others was that it aimed at increasing accountability not only to health personnel but also to religious and political leaders and the entire public.
He said it was critical for the society and expectant mothers to be aware of maternal services and attend clinics as required because most of the expectant mothers develop complications at home and go to the hospital while in critical condition and most of them end up dying.
The Ministry’s Public Health Education Coordinator, Said Makora, explained that the government has improved access to health services by increasing the number of health personnel, build dispensaries in every village and ward to reduce distance, ensure availability of medical drugs and equipment but maternal deaths were still high.
The government has realised that it has been making efforts to improve the services, but the beneficiaries were not attending the health centres at the right time; some of them die before reaching to the hospital and they bring them to the hospital for confirmation,” he said.
He added that it was high time for the public to take part in ensuring that the health of expectant mothers was the responsibility of every person in the society.
Mr Makora said that most maternal deaths emanate from the society as they only go to the hospital for confirmation while they were supposed to go as early as they become pregnant.
He further noted that the government was working on another intervention to have community health workers in every village as part of efforts to fight maternal and child mortality.
“We have started training the community health workers so that they can assist in collecting information from the society and sensitise expectant mothers to attend clinics and give birth in hospitals,” he said.