Dar es Salaam — A new campaign is seeking an extension of maternity leave to six months in an effort to save lives of the premature babies.
Dialogues on the same were opened on Friday with the stakeholders targeting to amend laws before December 2023. The Doris Mollel Foundation is spearheading the campaign in collaboration with other stakeholders who want the Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2019, which entitles a female worker 84 days of fully paid maternity leave or 100 consecutive days in case of twins within a leave cycle of 36 months.
The founder and executive director of the Doris Mollel Foundation, Ms Doris Mollel, said premature babies require extra care from both mothers and health workers.
"For these babies to reach the average birth weight of 3.5kg, it takes time. Extension of the maternity leave is necessary for the development of both premature babies and their mothers," she said. Reports from the ministry of Health showed that out of 336,000 babies born prematurely, over 11,500 of them die each year in Tanzania. Gracing the launch of the campaign on Friday, deputy minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and Persons with Disability) Mr Patrobas Karambi said the issues of premature babies are crosscutting and need a dialogue. "I am going to deliver this agenda to the government. I don't think this agenda will be difficult to get a solution because the problems of these children and mothers are known. So, I believe even in the parliament it will be easy," he said.
He stressed as government continues to seek solutions, stakeholders should continue to educate pregnant women on the principles to abide by so as to avoid premature births.
A nurse from the Muhimbili National Hospital, Ms Cleopatra Mtei, said the premature babies have many challenges like anaemia and skin problems. "Mothers are required to stay in hospital for five weeks and then return home and have to frequently return to the hospital for three months until the weight of a baby reaches 2.5kg. Under such a situation, some of them get terminated from work. So we need to think about this," she said.