The foundation has for 15 years worked closely with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and the Prime Minister's Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PMORALG) to address various challenges in the health sector.
In an interview with The Guardian BMF Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ellen Senkoro said the foundation has since then expanded its scope of activities from HIV/Aids to start supporting efforts to combat malaria, Tuberculosis (TB) prevention and curing initiatives, maternal health (prevention of maternal and infant mortality rates) and provision of reproductive health education to youth so that they able to avoid early pregnancies.
Throughout its operations a total of 20,687 women have benefitted with family planning services, cervical cancer screening was provided to 64,849 and tuberculosis screening to 40,017 people.
The foundation provides support by dispatching health workers to rural areas with intentions of increasing availability of skilled health workers at the health facilities (hospitals, health centres and dispensaries) and provision of capacity building training to district and regional leaders.
According to Dr Senkoro, the country has a 50 percent deficit of health workers especially in the peripherals. She said the dispatched health workers are a particular period enrolled into public services. She said the foundation employed 575 health workers in 2020 who were deployed to 13 regions facing serious shortage of health workers.
She added that in 2009, BMF started to support the improvement of health facility infrastructure such as operating theatre, laboratories and hospital buildings.
“Under the health facility infrastructure development project, we have managed to construct 482 houses for health care workers and different districts and regions,” said the CEO noting a total of 12 operating theatres have been built at health centres.
She added: “We have so far implemented 20 projects; nine out of them are in progress at different regions. We were previously operation in 33 districts only, but we are currently implementing projects in 126 districts in both mainland and Zanzibar.”
According to her, the foundation has in total employed over 4,000 health workers at different cadres as well as deploying teachers at various medical colleges. She said the community health workers (CHW) are deployed to provide services at grassroots level whereas a total of 2,700 CHWs have been dispatched to different places.
“Community health workers are important as we also used them to provide public education on the prevention of COVID-19, they spent time educated people on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services which are fundamental to fighting the virus and preserving the health and well-being of millions,” Dr Senkoro asserted.
She said there are possibilities that CHWs would also be used by foundation to education the public on COVID-19 after a team of experts formed by President Samia Suluhu Hassan to brainstorm on the way forward completes its job.
The BMF CEO however highlighted the need for the government to prioritize allocating more health practitioners to areas in dire need because all the infrastructures have been completed. She also advised for the use of graduates through volunteerism, which has proved to be effective in some African countries including Ghana where the volunteerism policy is applied not only in the health, but in education and agriculture sectors.
On universal health coverage, Dr Senkoro said the foundation will like any other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take part in educating the public on the importance of enrolling with health insurance services.
She said that universal health coverage is crucial because not all Tanzanians can pay direct from their pockets when it comes to settling medical bills.
According to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), the universal health coverage mainly targets to enable at least 26 percent of Tanzanians living below the poverty line to be enrolled with the health insurance schemes.
Last year data from NHIF indicates that only 4.4 million people equivalent to 8 percent of the country's population are enrolled with NHIF. Of the number, 60 percent are civil servants who are required to register with the fund in accordance with the law.