28 August 2014

Tanzania: Maternal Health Budget Deemed a Life Saver

DISTRICT Medical Officers from various parts of the country have hailed the government's move to commit its budget in 2014/15 year for over 50 per cent of all health centres to provide life-saving comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care (CEmONC).

At a national meeting in Dar es salaam on Wednesday to follow up on the government's commitments, district officers from Rukwa and Mtwara among other regions were of the view that CEmONC was the only way to promote safe motherhood.

They noted that monetary allocation for comprehensive emergency obstetric care at every health centre is one way to save women's lives.

The Coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania, Ms Rose Mlay, said that in the 2014/15 budget, the government committed to provide CEmONC in 50 per cent of the health centres across the country.

She said CEmONC is the only way to cut maternal deaths. CEmONC requires a blood bank, trained staff, drugs, electricity, running water, ambulance services and supplies. "So we need those items.

It's the only way a delivering woman can survive," she noted She said they had selected Rukwa region because 70 per cent of women there give birth at home according to the 2010 Tanzania Health Demographic Survey.

She said that last year, an assessment was done in 10 health centres in 4 districts of Rukwa region and it was found out that none of the health centres sampled provide CEmONC. On average, each health centre in the region is 94 km away from a delivering woman.

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda recently directed that all the 169 district councils in Tanzania develop a strategy and budget for improving CEmONC and to include a specific budget line for it in their comprehensive council health plans.

Mr Pinda aso directed Muhimbili National Referral Hospital to include CEmONC in the Big Results Now programme. Manager at White Ribbon Alliance, Mr David Lyamuya, said some of the barriers to CEmONC include distance to well equipped health centres, centres lacking critical infrastructure, equipment and supplies and centres lacking care providers.

This is a follow-up to pledges the government made in the One Plan 2008-2015 -- a national roadmap to accelerate the reduction of maternal, newborn and child deaths, that 50 per cent of all health centres will provide life-saving comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care.

These would include Caesarean sections, safe blood transfusion to pregnant women and qualified health workers. According to official estimates, more than 20 women die of pregnancy and child birth related complications every day in Tanzania.

Medical experts say a woman suffering from obstructed labour, heavy bleeding or fitting from high blood pressure (eclampsia) may have only two hours to live.

Most of these women live in remote areas where roads are extremely poor and medical services are limited or nonexistent. Tanzania accounts for three-five per cent of the global maternal deaths with a Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 454 per 100,000 live births. This means that, in every 100 maternal deaths worldwide, about 3 - 5 are Tanzanian.

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