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‘USAID Afya Yangu’ fighting maternal mortality

‘USAID Afya Yangu’ fighting maternal mortality

THE available maternal and child mortality data state that about 164 mothers and 483 newborns lost their lives last year in Mwanza region.

The figure ranks the region number two, nationally, with highest mother and child deaths, said the Mwanza Regional Commissioner (RC), Engineer Robert Gabriel last week, during the launch of ‘USAID Afya Yangu’ project. A-five year project, from January this year, is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at a tune of over 150bn/- (USD 66.5 million), with the aim of fighting maternal and child mortality.

It is implemented by tan international health organization, Jhpiego, in collaboration with the Tanzanian government and partner stakeholders, namely D-tree, Tanzania Communication and Development Centers (TCDC), Benjamin Mkapa Foundation (BMF), Amani Girls Home (AGH) and the Manoff Group (TMG).

According to the RC, the Project involves among others, improvements of mothers, newborn and under five children health as well as availability of integrated and superior health services to community members.

“This death number is big. We need collaborative efforts to reduce, if not completely end them,” says the RC, adding that the fight should focus on the fight of death causes, which are giving birth to many children, epilepsy in pregnancy, use of herbs to force the labor pain, as well as anemia and over bleeding during delivery process.

Poor nutrition to expectant mothers is also a cause, according to the RC, urging the project implementers to intensify public education while using simple language in line with the understanding level of the targeted audience.

“For instance, do not only encourage a person to have Vitamin C, instead, tell what to consume, mostly fruits and vegetables that provide such a vitamin. Again, when you only say carbohydrates, some people won’t understand, rather, tell them to consume foods like cassava, potatoes, maize to mention a few, which give carbohydrates,” he advises.

According to him, despite the government’s efforts to invest in the health sector, the available systems still do not provide accurate health services, especially emergency care to mothers and newborns. It is due to the lack of professionalism to some health workers as well as data collection, storage and use, during decision making.

He urges the project implementers to take into considerations all those challenges and come up with permanent solution since the project focuses on among others, improvements in health systems, capacity building to service providers, shaping new innovative techniques in the health industry, but most importantly to improve the referral system as well as availability of health information.

The RC expresses the gratitude to the government of American people, following its regular support in the Tanzanian health sector through various projects, including the just ended ‘USAID Boresha Afya’ that has at large brought in improvements in mother and child health, among other benefits.

Mwanza Regional Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator, Ms Secilia Mrema, says that USAID Afya Yangu involves various strategies to meet the targeted goals, including deploying the low experienced service providers to health centers with specialists, for capacity building on mother and child care. Ms Mrema advises the society to avoid the use of herbs to pregnancies and make sure all mothers do give births at health centers, a move that will intensify the war against maternal-related deaths.

According to her, mother and child deaths are still a serious challenge as the number has been fluctuating. For instance, she adds, in 2019 mother deaths dropped from 195 to 157 and shot up last year to 164, equal to 10.3 percent of the total deaths, country-wide, which positions Mwanza region number two, behind Dar es Salaam in having the highest maternal and child deaths rate.

“Tanzanian government keeps on improving the health sector through among others, installation of equipped health centers and availability of professionals. This project will back-up the efforts to meet the targeted goals,” she says.

USAID Afya Yangu Evaluation and Monitoring Manager, Dr Lusekelo Njonge, comments that the project is implemented in the 11 regions of Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar, targeting between three and five million women of reproductive age, 15 to 49 years. He insists that the project involves among others, mother, newborn and under five children health care, family planning as well as improvements in health services to youth.

According to him, Mwanza is among beneficiaries after the data showed that the region ranks number two at national level, for the past three years consecutively, with highest maternal and child mortality rates. Recently, Mwanza Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Thoma Rutachunzibwa, was quoted saying that there are deliberate efforts to fight maternal deaths, including availability of experts from the dispensary level to provide full time services to expectant mothers, especially during delivery processes.

The experts are currently available at Regional and Zonal Referral Hospitals, SekouToure and Bugando respectively, for the 24-hours services to pregnancies and newborns.

“But we are also set to identify all pregnant mothers and shower them with public education over the causes of maternal deaths. The problem is that we are now discussing the deaths and not causes,” says the RMO.

He stresses that mother and newborn deaths are still a challenge in Mwanza as the region has already recorded a total of 37 deaths between January and March this year, compared to 36 of the same period, last year.

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Author: ABELA MSIKULA

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