USAID Tulonge Afya project has become a lifeline for new mothers by empowering them to make the right health decision on their newborns and families.
Through Tulonge Afya Project, which is implemented in 29 districts, the US government has provided significant support to Tanzania’s health sector, investing in infrastructural development, health policy reforms, capacity building and social and behaviour change.
This was unveiled recently in Arusha Region at the mother meetups managed under Tulonge Afya’s NAWEZA platform.
The mothers talk about how they struggle to exclusively breastfeed their children for six months, amidst unyielding ‘customs’ that disempower their decision-making.
They are designed to bring together mums of children below the age of 5 in conversations about the health issues that matter to them, their families, and the welfare of their children.
They are modeled after ‘kitchen parties’, a sort of sendoff for soon-to-be-married women, replete with the expectations of looming motherhood such moments tend to trigger.
For many of these women, mother meetups are affirming. Entertaining, exciting. They are an opportunity for tête-à-têtes about the one thing that matters to them most: their baby’s health.
They talk about customs, traditions, beliefs, faith. They speak of things that have made it harder for them to do the basics to keep their babies healthy.
Most are brave, they talk about their triumphs and how they made sure their babies are born healthy and remain healthy.
“Two weeks after I gave birth to my first born, he cried a lot,” said Marium Evance. She’s a mother of two. Her arm’s cradled around her newest born, perched preciously on her hip.
“I didn’t know what to do”, she goes on, “So I asked the elders – and they told me to give her something to eat, because my milk would never be enough.”
“But I refused”, she said, to murmurs of approvals from her peers. All new mothers like herself. “I stuck to breastfeeding him exclusively till he was six months old. Only then did I start him on solids.”
We’re in Arusha. Marium is testifying at a get-together for mothers of children under the age of five. It’s her safe space – designed by USAI D Tulonge Afya project for new mums, like her across the country.
Only today, Marium and her friends enjoy the company of US Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr Donald Wright who reiterated that the US government’s commitment to safeguarding the wellbeing of mothers such as Marium and her baby by investing in the health and livelihoods of Tanzanians.
The American People, he says, will continue to provide funding to support maternal, newborn and child health interventions, family planning, and HIV /Aids prevention, care and treatment.
They’re supported by USAI D, under USAI D Tulonge Afya – a five-year project that seeks to catalyze opportunities for Tanzanians to improve their health status by transforming socio-cultural norms and supporting the adoption of healthier behaviors.
This approach bringing mothers together in conversation about their babies’ wellbeing supports the government’s push to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, says the representative of the Project Coordinator Dennis Kabuta from EMAC Tanzania.
For the Project Coordinator, interventions such as these mother meetups help Tanzania get closer to eliminating preventable maternal and newborn deaths.
He believes such projects empower individuals to take actions to improve their health and benefit entire communities.