WORKING in the health sector has been a life time dream of a 23 year-old girl, Felister Shiyengo a resident of Kahama District in Shinyanga.
A third born in a family of six developed an interest in serving lives of Tanzanians after observing shortage of health workers especially Midwives in rural and periphery areas.
She saw a green light in 2014 after passing form four examination with flying colours and made it to Advanced Secondary education to pursue science subjects in Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB) combination.
"I then joined advanced secondary education at Waja girl's secondary school in Geita with plans in mind that after completion, I was going to study either pharmacy or Midwifery nursing, for my dreams to be fulfilled," she narrates to the 'Daily News'.
"In October 2017, I joined the Bugando School of nursing in Mwanza to pursue a three years diploma in Nursing and Midwifery where I graduated in September this year," she added.
Studying at the college, Ms Felister had a smooth ride after the college was among 20 institutions that were being supported by the More and Better Midwives for Rural Tanzania (MBM) project that ran for five years between 2016 and 2020.
The project among others, aimed at strengthening midwifery profession through improved clinical mentorship, advocacy for professionalization and gender in Respectful Maternity Care (RMC).
The MBM project that was jointly implemented by Jhpiego, Amref Health Africa, Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM), Tanzania Midwives Association (TAMA), was funded by the Canadian government to a tune of Canadian Dollars 10milion which is equivalent to 16bn/-.
"I'm glad to be among the beneficiaries of the MBM project through training and infrastructural support to our college. With the project, our college was also supported with modern training on attending patients in the wards, effective monitoring of practical training," she explained.
According to her, training she received at the college and the support from the MBM project to a large extent have broadened her understanding and made the learning environment easier, noting that she is now capable of working and delivering to the maximum expectations.
Her notes are in line with the remarks issued recently by the MBM Director, Dr Julius Masanika that 94 per cent midwives from colleges that have been supported by the projects are competent enough to work effectively in the field.
"In other hand, only 25 per cent of graduates from colleges that weren't supported by the project are competent for the field, this is a proof that the just concluded project has highly contributed to the improving quality of midwives in the country," he explained.
Dr Masanika said to a large extent has assisted the government on the shortage of nurse midwives in Lake and western zones to 41 per cent in 2020, from 54 per cent that was recorded at the beginning of the project in 2016.
Apart from nursing-midwifery students, the project also benefited tutors, trainers and preceptors who provide education and training, as well as practicing nurse-midwives in the 19 districts of eight regions of Lake and Western Zones.
The eight regions in question included Mwanza, Kagera, Mara, Simiyu, Shinyanga, Kigoma, Tabora, and Geita, and upon conclusion of the project saw a total of 2,037 nurses and midwives graduated with 112 being fully sponsored.
Moreover 97 midwives, tutors and preceptors trained on gender and leadership while at some 1,713 others received training on clinical mentorship while some 19 other colleges and institutions were renovated and equipped with learning materials and skills labs.
"Also, Jhpiego has been promoting leadership among girls and they have been recognizing midwives who have performed well. I'm among those who received certificates of recognition as a better midwife student for this year," said Ms Felister.
She is also optimistic that with time, the shortage of midwives in the country would be ended completely, given that the government's commitment of continuing to employ health workers in a continued effort to address challenges facing the health sector in the country.
Going by the Demographic Health Survey of 2015/16, lake and western zone regions were having a shortage of skilled midwives compared to other regions. The data has it that Simiyu has (42 per cent), Kilimanjaro (47 per cent) while Kilimanjaro has 96 per cent followed by Ruvuma that has 86 per cent.
The data also shows that Tanzania has less than 45 per cent of the required overall health workforce including the shortage of nursing-midwifery professionals. It has put it that, eight out of 25 regions (one-third of the country) were operating with less than four nurse-midwives per 10,000 populations, and three regions have less than 2.5 nurse-midwives.
Speaking on during closure of the project in Mwanza, the director of preventive services from the Ministry of Health Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Dr Leonard Subi also re-assured the government commitment to continue working together with health stakeholders on improving the sector.
As he was representing Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Prof Abel Makubi, Dr Subi went on to pledge government's further commitment and determinations to sustain the gains that have been achieved during the execution of the project.
The ministry's senior official also maintained that the government will continue to employ many midwives including the 2,037 midwives who have benefited from the project, noting that so far, at least 1,440 health workers have been employed between 2015 and 2020.
"The implementation of the project stands as clear evidence of the good relationship between Tanzania and other international communities... and that the government will continue to cherish the partnership with the government of Canada," he said.
The Jhpiego Country director Ms Alice Christensen said the project has addressed the gap for quality and skilled midwives' shortage in rural and hard to reach geographically places in the country.
"To ensure women and children in rural and hard to reach areas of Tanzania have access to skilled midwives, we will be saving more lives every single day by these skilled midwives," she noted.
Cognizant of the shortage and uneven distribution of the health workforce especially the midwives in health centres, she said the just concluded project will result in employing many competent new graduates where their services are greatly required.