17 March 2014

Tanzania: Govt Moves to Cut Infant Mortality

Sumbawanga — THE government has ordered Regional and District authorities to allocate a sufficient budget for equipment and obstetric emergency care services in hospitals and health centres as a way of reducing maternal and infant mortality.

This was said here on Saturday by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda during an event to mark the White Ribbon Day.

The day is marked in remembrance of women who died while giving birth and advocating for improved health services to reduce such deaths.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Rashid in Mtowisa Village in Sumbawanga District, the Premier said that maternal and infant mortalities remain a critical challenge in the country.

He pointed out that having in place well equipped hospitals and health centres was the only way through which the deaths would be reduced. "The African demographic health surveys indicates that in Eastern Africa, Tanzania holds the second position in the number of women dying out of 100,000 live births with 454 deaths.

The first is Uganda with 437 deaths, Rwanda comes third with 476 followed by Kenya 488 and Burundi 500," he said. He added that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare wanted Big Results Now in the reproductive health section, adding that putting in place better health care services was critical.

Mr Pinda pointed out that putting allocating 15 per cent of the budget as per the Abuja Declaration of 2001 was the government's plan. He added that limited resources have always been a hindrance in achieving the target.

"The current budget had placed priority in other sectors such as infrastructure which are also crucial in ensuring reliable transportation which is another avenue to ensure reduced deaths," he said.

He added that the government would make sure that the health budget is increased alongside other supportive sectors.

Mr Pinda noted further that Tanzania is one of the six African countries with speedy reduction of under-five and infant mortality by 54 out of 1,000 live births and 26 out of 1,000 live births respectively.

"Between 1990 and 2012, Tanzania reduced maternal deaths by 47 per cent, so we are yet to achieve the MDG (Millennium Development Goal) target of 193 deaths per 100,000 live births. The target should reach 75 per cent reduction," he said.

He added that all the stakeholders should work hard to reduce the deaths by three quarters to achieve the MDGs Number 5.

Mr Pinda added that infant deaths were reduced from 112 out of 1,000 live births in 2005 to 81 out of 1000 live births in 2010 and the current survey indicates that the number has gone down to 54 out of 1,000 live births.

Earlier, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Country Coordinator, Ms Rose Mlay had noted that the weeklong preparations ahead of the day in question have been fruitful with residents in Rukwa Region donating 977 bottles of blood.

"People in this region have showed a high level of love to women by donating 977 bottles of blood which is a record since we started marking White Ribbon Day in 2006," she said.

Ms Mlay added that 16,828 Tanzanians have signed a petition pressing the government and other stakeholders to play its role in ensuring that essential reproductive health care services are put in place to save lives.

"The petition signed manually and online wants the central and local governments to put in place a sufficient budget for reproductive health care services and ensure that at least 50 per cent of health centres offer obstetric emergency care services," she said.

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