Tanzania: Why Reconstructive, Cosmetic Surgery Services Introduced

T government has said it has introduced reconstructive and cosmetic surgery in the country to save costs incurred in seeking the services abroad while there are highly skilled health professionals to do the job.

The Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu said Tanzania is guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which define health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or illness."

The Minister added that WHO guidelines also require the country to provide services based on the needs of each individual.

Ms Mwalimu was responding to concerns raised by MPs while contributing to a report of activities undertaken by the Parliamentary Committee on Health and HIV/AIDS in 2023.

The lawmakers wanted to know why the government has allowed cosmetic surgery services to be provided in public hospitals while the health policy does not cover such services.

"People are traveling to countries like India and Turkey to seek cosmetic surgery services and they pay a lot of money in terms of dollars to access these services, why don't we use our specialists to provide the services and let the money remain in the country?," queried Ms Mwalimu. "The money could be used to cover the cost of exempted patients, expectant mothers or children," she said.

She said that there is no need for Tanzanians to travel overseas to access such services while the country has specialised and superspecialised hospitals that could provide the services.

"There is nothing wrong with the introduction of these services in the country Muhimbili National Hospital Mloganzila is a specialised and super-specilised hospital and it currently focuses on reconstructive and cosmetic surgery... people should not rely on this facility to provide services on common diseases like Malaria," Ms Mwalimu insisted.

For his part, Deputy Minister for Health Dr Godwin Mollel said that being healthy is not just about being free from diseases, because a person can be physically healthy but still suffer from mental or social health problems.

"In healthcare, we don't look at a person whether is sick... we look at a person in totality of physical, mental, psychological, and social health," said Dr Mollel.

Kisesa MP Luhaga Mpina said that the Health Policy 2007 is silent about cosmetic surgery, thus he wanted to know whether such services are allowed to be introduced in the country According to Mpina cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast and buttock augmentation are considered elective surgeries, not medical treatments.

"Our policy does not cover these services, why a government hospital has been allowed to provide these services," Mpina queried.

In October last year, Mloganzila Hospital announced the introduction of cosmetic surgery services, ranging from breast and buttock augmentation to tummy and arm fat reduction.

Psychologist Ramadhani Massenga attributes the surge in cosmetic surgery to societal pressures and the quest for acceptance. This trend is not confined to Tanzania.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports a significant increase in cosmetic procedures, from 7.5 million in 2000 to 14 million in 2011.

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