22 May 2018

Tanzania: Three Things Tanzania Is Doing to Lower Maternal and Neonatal Mortality

Geneva — Tanzania is committed to bringing down maternal and neonatal mortality by addressing each of the causes including improving obstetric surgical services across the country.

Scaling up surgical services

Speaking during a high level panel session on 'Global Surgery: A powerful Strategy for Advancing Women's Health' on the sideline of the ongoing Worlds Health Assembly on Monday night in Geneva, Tanzania Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya reiterated the country's commitment to significantly bring down maternal and neonatal mortality by scaling up surgical services in the rural health facilities where majority of women reside.

"We want to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of caesarean sections to ensure more women access the services within their reach to cut the long distance they have to travel," he stated.

Specific policies

"Each country must develop their own needs assessment to inform their own health problems and then come up with a health policy, plan and goals to be achieved in bringing maternal mortality down," he explained during the panel session which he shared with former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Former First Lady of Somalia Dr Edna Adan, Dr Atul Gawande who is the director of Assist International and Ms Terri Bressenham who is the chief innovation officer of GE Healthcare.

On her part, the former Chilean President Bachelet stated that access to safe and timely surgical care not only represents an essential health need for women and girls but also accelerates gender equality and economic productivity.

The former Somalia First Lady Dr Adan emphasized that 75 per cent of maternal deaths can be averted with increased access to safe surgical and obstetric care.

Upgrading health centres

According to 2015 study by Global Burden of Disease, about 20 per cent of deaths in Tanzania were attributable to conditions that could be addressed through surgical and obstetric care, while 3.96 per cent of all maternal mortality in Tanzania is anesthesia related. And the Global Health data shows that only 51 per cent of hospitals in Tanzania are ready to perform surgery due to lack of proper power, oxygen and equipment.

To address this challenge, the acting Director of Preventive Services in the Ministry of Health Dr Leonard Subi told the Citizen the government has so far upgraded 208 health centres across the country to offer comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

"The government has upgraded 208 health centres across the country to offer comprehensive and emergency obstetric and neonatal care including offering blood transfusion services to improve accessibility of women to safe surgery, " he explained adding that because there are few anesthetists in the country, the government has given the permit for more staff including nurses, clinical officers, assistant medical officers to be trained for one to two years to offer anesthesia service.

"About 30 to 35 per cent of maternal deaths occur due to hemorrhage. So we want blood transfusion services to be accessible," he pointed out adding that blood transfusion services is being made accessible to not only save mothers but also neonates thus improving early childhood development in the country.

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