Tanzania is making progress in maternal and child health

18Mar 2016
The Guardian
Tanzania is making progress in maternal and child health

TANZANIA is making considerable progress in the reduction of child mortality. Under-five mortality rates continue to drop from 112 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 81 in 2010.

The deaths of infants under one year also decreased from 68 to 51 per 1,000 live births over the same period.

The VICE President Samia Suluhu Hassan ordered all district and municipal councils in the country to make sure that in the next financial year they allocate enough budgets to boost efforts in reducing maternal and newborn deaths and morbidity in their respective areas.

The VP said the allocated funds should be used to improve health service delivery in medical facilities in their localities.

However, current efforts need to be sustained and scaled up in some areas in order to maintain and build on the achievements. High population growth places additional strain on service provision at all levels.

Pockets of low performance for key interventions also have an impact.

Neonatal conditions like birth asphyxia and infections are the major causes of death in young children, followed by pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. AIDS is also a major killer, responsible for about 9 per cent of under-five deaths.

Poor nutrition is a significant compounding factor in child mortality.

Of great concern are the high death rates of newborn babies and mothers. Around 32 per cent of all under-five deaths occur in the first 28 days of life – many infants survive for only a few days.

These deaths occur in a context where about half of all births take place at home, with assistance from a relative or traditional birth attendant.

Most of these births take place in unhygienic conditions. If life threatening complications develop at home the realization and decision making often comes too late to reach appropriate care at health facilities in time.

Reports have it that close to 8,000 women die every year during pregnancy and child birth as a result of conditions that could have been prevented or treated. Poor quality of care due to an insufficient number of skilled health workers and lack of basic equipment, as well as long distances from home to health care facilities are major deterrents to facility delivery.

Women living in rural areas, those who come from the poorest families and those who are less educated, have the least access to skilled attendance at delivery.

Women who start having children in adolescence tend to have more children and shorter spacing between pregnancies – all of which are risk factors for maternal and neonatal mortality.

According to statistics conducted 20 years ago, maternal and childbirth rate have been slowly decreasing from 529 deaths from 100,000 lives in 1996 to 432 deaths per 100,000 lives in 2014, which is an equivalent of 7,500 per year.

It is therefore important that the government increases use of key health interventions, such as sustained high coverage of routine under-five immunization, Vitamin A supplementation, the use of insecticide treated bed nets and better drugs to treat malaria.

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