Tanzania: Samia Lays Accent On Maternal, Child Health

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan yesterday laid emphasis on the improvement of maternal and newborn health, saying the country has made huge progress in curbing maternal mortality and morbidity.

President Samia tasked the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Dorothy Gwajima to address concerns over health facilities demanding payments for delivery, vaccination, neonatal and antenatal services.

The Head of State issued the directive during her meeting with thousands of women from across the country in the capital city, Dodoma, yesterday.

"I am aware of the challenges relating to health facilities demanding charges for delivery, vaccination, neonatal and antenatal services," the President said, while directing Dr Gwajima to address the matter as per the governing laws and regulations.

"I am confident that the minister is well aware of the requirements of the laws and guidelines on this matter and is going to work on them appropriately," President Samia said.

The president touted the improvements registered by the country in reducing neonatal and maternal mortality rates, saying the feats are owed to the efforts taken by the government to ensure the number of pregnant women who give birth in health facilities increase as well as raising the rate of vaccination for under-five children.

According to President Samia, current statistics show that 80 per cent of babies are being born in health facilities, whereas the number of under-five children who are vaccinated now stands at 98 per cent.

"Over the years, the government has heightened efforts by ensuring health services are brought to a close proximity to the people through constructing infrastructures such as hospitals and health centres across the country," Ms Samia stated.

Such improvements have highly contributed to the reduction of mortality rate for newborns of less than six days, which now stands at seven deaths per 1000 live births.

The country has also reduced the number of under-five deaths from the previous 100 to 50 deaths for every 1000 lives. Maternal mortality rate has equally been reduced from 500 deaths to 321 for every 100,000 lives, noted President Samia.

She directed the minister responsible to take the necessary measures to further improve maternal and child health, noting that concerted efforts are still needed to curb deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.

Meanwhile, President Samia blocked hospitals from withholding deceased's bodies on grounds of unsettled bills. She ordered the Health Ministry to establish the best approach that can permanently address the crisis.

Both mainstream and social media have reported several cases involving families complaining over hospitals refusing to release the bodies of their departed family for unpaid hospital debt.

She stressed on the need for securing a permanent solution to the problem, noting that such a measure was against acts of humanity. The president cited among the best practices is to pay one's medical expenses timely.

"Waiting for someone to settle a bill which has accumulated to over 3m/- or more for medical services is unacceptable. Let's plan well."

"It does not make sense... when one is grieving and thinking about burial arrangements, only to be interrupted with bills ... this is unjust," she said, insisting that people should understand the need to also make payment during treatment.

President Samia was, however, optimistic the comprehensive health insurance package will resolve all the ambiguity. "It's necessary that people must get public healthcare insurance," she urged.

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