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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Tanga integrates mother, child health insurance fund in development plans

14th March 2012
Mothers holding their infants. In every 100,000 expectant mothers, 454 die during delivery in Tanzania. File photo

Living at Mikanjuni location, Donge Village in Tanga city, Ashura Omari, 37, has three children, Rama, Kassim and Mwantumu.

Apart from Rama – the first born, Ashura’s other two children were delivered by traditional midwives.

When the young woman, married to Choyo Salimu, a fisherman, felt labour pangs for her first child eight years ago, she requested her husband to take her to hospital.

She packed a pair of kanga and a kitenge in a bag and took with her 2,000/- which was all she had saved from fish sales.

On a bicycle, Choyo pedalled to Makorora Health Centre. He immediately went to the reception to open up an admission file.

Having been in possession of the document, he was ordered to take the expectant mother to the maternity ward.

Though Ashura was cordially received by nurses, Choyo was surprised to hear from one of the shift nurses who demanded for maternity equipment - gloves, bandages, syringes, razor blade etc.

Choyo told the nurse that he did not have the equipment and that he did not know that such items would be required.

“What do you think we shall use during the delivery process of your wife? These are the essential items which you should have prepared even before you left home,” quipped the nurse.

He was told to go for the items at a nearby pharmacy with emphasis that he should not delay, for they were urgently required.

At the pharmacy, Choyo discovered that the total charge was 10,000/-, an amount he could not afford.

After he had humbly explained his case, the pharmacist delivered the items on condition that Choyo repays the amount after his wife delivers.

Having delivered her baby at the centre safely, Ashura vowed not to go to any health facility for delivery all her life.

Ashura is one of millions of Tanzanian women from poor families, especially in villages, who undergo similar ordeals in the hands of bully health providers.

It was for such reasons, and others, which compelled the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) - the largest Social Health Insurance Scheme in the country, to come up with a programme aimed at providing quality health care to expectant mothers with poor financial resources.

In essence, it is an alternative financial option in the health sector-primarily aimed at implementing health sector reforms launched in 1993.

Under the programme, the pilot project, financed by the German government through the German Community Bank (KfW) and technical assistance from some international organizations GFA, MEDA and IGES, would initially cover two regions- Tanga and Mbeya.

Launching the mother and child insurance fund in Tanga recently, Emmanuel Humba, NHIF Director General, said the exercise was a three-year project covering the period 2011-2014.

Humba told stakeholders here that the main objective of coming up with the idea was to enable expectant mothers who cannot afford maternity costs to access health facilities.

“All an expectant mother is required to do is to register for the comprehensive medical insurance cover with NHIF," said Humba.

According to the programme, expectant mothers qualify for membership from the day they are registered with the fund. The membership shall be valid for a consecutive period of three months after delivery.

Membership shall also cover the mother's children whose validity is also three months.

According to the arrangement, health centres will be appointed specifically to cater for the expectant mothers. Those will be places where registration will be made and health services offered.

In Tanga, Pangani and Korogwe district, a total of 214 members have been registered while those registered in llege and Rungwe in Mbeya region are 280 members.

“I urge government leadership in Mbeya and Tanga regions to integrate the programme in their development plans to enable success of the programme,” said Humba.

“It is my hope that as many expectant mothers as possible shall turn up in big numbers to be registered,” stressed Humba.

It is anticipated that depending on the success of the programme, more districts in the two regions shall be covered, with emphasis put in villages. Later, the programme shall be extended countrywide.

Said Humba, “We appeal to leaders at all levels, including members of parliament, to sensitize wananchi sufficiently enough in a bid to reduce their suffering.”

“At present, various equipment are being assembled, soon they will be distributed. Let us all take care of the items and ensure that expectant mothers benefit from the insurance cover.”

“We are very serious about the programme whose ultimate aim is to relieve expectant mothers from the hardship they face in delivery services,” stressed the health insurance boss.

The procedure of registration shall be similar to that used by NHIF which has so far covered 5. 6 percent of the country’s total population.

Expectant mothers shall provide passport size photographs which shall be sent to the fund’s headquarters for issuance of identity cards,” said Humba.

On her part, Chiku Gallawa, Tanga Regional Commissioner, hailed the fund for its timely action considering the country’s population growth.

“It is obvious that when population increases, needs for health services also increase” said Gallawa, who was chief guest at the ceremony.

She said; “It is unfortunate that maternal deaths are still on the rise. This is frightening”.

“Presently, in every 100,000 expectant mothers, 454 die during delivery, against Millennium Development Goal’s (2015) standard which is set at 265”, she said.

“On our part, we shall strive to ensure that barriers which prevented expectant mothers from using delivery health services are removed”.

She said; “We realise that some of our health providers discourage expectant mothers from accessing to safe delivery through their unbecoming behaviours. This tendency shall be contained.”

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