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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Shortage of medical staff hampers reproductive health initiatives

24th August 2012

Shortage of medical personnel in Manyoni District, Singida Region is so critical that the district is really struggling to register encouraging progress in maternal health and making men more supportive of maternal health issues…

By Lucas Lukumbo

The Manyoni District Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator, Grace Mwegoha puts the staff shortage in the district perspective.

She notes that there is a shortage of 87 Nurse-Midwives. Currently the district has 60 of them. There is also a shortage of 40 clinical officers from the present 36. It has also a shortage 27 shortage of Public Health Nurses from the present nine.

Others are 16 assistant Medical officers ( presently have 16), Nine registered Nurses (has 39 now) and five medical officers (from the present 5).

Three more medical attendants are needed to beef up the 152 which are not enough.

“It is very awkward to note that much work in maternal health work is done by medical attendants. This may seem good but is very dangerous as the medical attendants have not been trained to handle maternal health cases professionally,” she said.

The district with 53 health facilities grapples with maternal deaths. In 2020 there were 21 maternal deaths while in 2011 there were 25 of them.

The coordinator however says that one of the biggest achievements in the past two years is an achievement in making men involved in health issues.

She says the achievement has been made possible by the introduction of a project which engages men to achieve sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The project ‘Tanzanian Men as Equal Partners’ (TMEP) works hand-in-glove with the Singida based Health Actions Promotion Association (HAPA).

Its Executive Director David Mkanje says TMEP started with the capacity building for the organization to support the communities under the project. It educates the communities sexual and reproductive health.

Before the work begins the organization along with TMEP begins by informing, sensitizing and mobilizing stakeholders and the community at large.

Local people and peer educators are recruited to facilitate local events to provide information and education, distribute condoms and refer clients to relevant sexual and reproductive health services.

Clubs are established in schools and among community members to discuss sexuality, gender and other matters as well as promote gender equality and male involvement.

“What we have learnt is that when women are given messages to tell their spouses, many of them do not send them. This is attributed to local traditions that see women as inferior and not able to give advices to their spouses,” he says.

There are great achievements so far. Men are now more involved in reproductive health by helping their spouses in preparing for their children to be born, according to the official.

Men also give advice to their spouses to go for testing.

“There was time in Manyoni when men used to send their spouses for HIV/Status believing that if their wives are negative, they will also be negative,” he said.

According to Manyoni District Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator, Grace Mwegoha the project has realized great success despite shortage of staff.

She said for example that in October last year some 446 men went for testing while 899 women tested.

In February this year some 364 women tested while 305 men tested.

As for family planning there were 752 clients in January this year while those who came for condoms were 8,116.

She says there were 842 clients for family planning commodities while there were people who asked for 20,945 condoms.

“The problem here is that there are no female condoms. Many women would like to use them but are nowhere to be found.

One of the successes is that after being sensitised many women like to use permanent methods of contraceptives, she said stating that there were 467 such women in May this year compared to 9 women who opted for that method of contraception May last years.

Compared to May last year where there were only 61 women who opted for in-plants, in this year in the same month there were 1350 clients.

As for injectables there were 1444 women who opted for injectables in May last year, while this year in May there were 1753.

As for tablets there were 450 clients last year compared to 596 in May this year.

“Most women prefer injectables because of the quick services provided and its confidentiality. Women can use it without the spouses noticing it,” she said.

According to TMEP efforts to empower women to increase their use of services and improve their sexual and reproductive health standards are undermined by the actions of men.

Without addressing masculinity and its influence on sexual relations, sexual and reproductive health and gender equality, the success of efforts to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls is limited.

In many cases, men have been recognized as key problem when it comes to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

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