16 March 2012

Tanzania: Maternal Deaths Irk Mama Kikwete

IMPROVEMENTS made in maternal and children's health should get more boost to ensure zero deaths, the First Lady, Mama Salma Kikwete has said.

The First Lady was officiating at an event to commemorate the White Ribbon Day which is meant to promote safe motherhood, held at the national level at Mnazi Mmoja grounds in Dar es Salaam.She noted that despite efforts made by various stakeholders, maternal mortality was still high.

"Deaths related to pregnancy complications have gone down from 8,000 to 7,000 per annum while those of children under one year have gone down from 51,000 to 41,000 between the years 2005 to 2010, this numbers are promising but the fight is far from over as the target is to ensure zero deaths," she said.

According to her, a survey conducted in 2010 shows that there have been improvements in the number of women giving birth in health centres from 47 per cent in 2004/2005 to 51 per cent in 2010, as well as an increase in contraceptive use from 20 to 27 per cent in the same period.

"It is a good sign showing that if we increase efforts, it is possible to reduce deaths significantly or even eliminate them altogether and by so doing we will have achieved the Millennium Development Goal number four (MDG 4)," she noted.Mama Kikwete, however, noted that families have a major responsibility in ensuring that maternal and child mortality cases are minimized.

"Today's theme states that "Saving lives of mothers and newborns is in your hands; be accountable," it is a valid theme as it advocates for members of society among other stakeholders in taking responsibilities to stop deaths most of which are preventable," she said.

She added that it was high time for families to put aside a budget for expectant mothers and for societies to put up emergency funds for the same," she said."Health centres should ensure that expectant mothers receive quality service at anytime they are in need of it and service providers should do this work with a clean heart and love," she said.

Mama Kikwete also challenged the government to adhere to pledges made at the United Nations summit in September 2010 on mother and child's health, where Tanzania promised to boost the health sector's budget to reach 15 per cent of the general budget from the current 11 per cent.

"It was also agreed that the government would increase the number of students admitted in health institutions from 5,000 to 10,000 and the number of graduates from 3,000 to 7,000 as well as increasing staff in the sector," she said.According to her, another important area is in increasing the percentage of contraceptive use from the current 27 per cent to 60 per cent, as well as six months exclusive breast feeding from the current 41 to 80 per cent by 2015.

Earlier, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda said the government was committed in reducing infant and maternal mortality at all levels and that to start with all district health budgets should have maternal and child mortality reduction components or else would not be approved.

"We have improved and kept on improving health budgets at the district level. We have directed them to include safe motherhood components lest their budgets are not approved," said Dr Mponda in a speech read on his behalf by the ministry's Acting Permanent Secretary, Ms Regina Kikuli.

The Minister noted that the government's move to construct dispensaries in every village and health centres in every ward was aimed at significantly reducing the maternal and child deaths, adding that budgetary priority on the same was vital.Meanwhile, PSI Tanzania is planning to launch a Clean Delivery Pack later this year, geared at eventually reducing maternal deaths in the country.

Addressing journalists in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, PSI Director of Reproductive Health, Dr Nguke Mwakatunud said pilot programmes have started in Handeni district in Tanga region and Mbozi district in Mbeya region, before expanding to other parts of the country.

He said PSI decided to start with Handeni and Mbozi districts in Tanga and Mbeya respectively, to evaluate how the programme will be working and find best possible ways to eventually expand to the whole country.

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