The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, Ummy Mwalimu made this observation yesterday when presenting a report on the ministry’s activities for the period July – December 2019 to the parliamentary committee on community development.
"Expectations were pegged at 1.1million expectant mothers to deliver in health centres but statistics show 813,923 cases or around 74 percent,” she said, noting that this achievement resulted from different interventions deployed by the government and other stakeholders.
The minister said the government’s intention is to ensure the number of women who deliver at home is reduced to meet targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has thus adopted a target of achieving an overall maternal mortality ratio of less than 70 per 100 000 live births by 2030.
“The idea is to reduce the deaths of children at birth due to various challenges including some expecting mothers especially in rural areas delivering at home,” she said.
District councils have been directed to ensure mother and child health care is improved in health centres, with blood banks set to be established in five health centres in five regions.
On pregnant women who attended screening at clinics, the minister said 797,803 or 73 percent of the targeted did so in four visits or more as directed.
She said about 87.4 percent of pregnant women, specifically 886,810 such patients received malaria prevention drugs and 2,844,174 doses or 84.6 per cent of expectations were given FEFOL drugs that prevent and treat iron deficiency anaemia and folate deficiency during pregnancy.
“Only 62 percent of women deliver at health centres as the rest do not reach hospitals,” she asserted, noting that this is a big challenge as a traditional midwife will invariably fail to notice telling symptoms when catering to an expectant mother.
The minister's remarks came at the time when reports show that maternal mortality rates (MMRs) in Tanzania have remained stubbornly high over the past decade, at around 500 cases of fatalities per 100,000 live births.
Long distances to access health centres and hospitals together with a number of women delivering at home especially in rural areas have contributed to having 556 deaths in every 100,000 deliveries for over two decades without going down.
The minister also announced that the government intends to build a referral hospital in Chato District, Geita Region.
“Our researches have shown that the number of patients in Lake Zone regions is on the increase. We have therefore decided to build a referral hospital for the zone in Chato District,” the minister said, addressing members of the social services and Community Development Committee.
She said with the Lake Zone population estimated at 15million, the need for an additional referral health facility has waited a long time to be taken up.
Lake Zone includes Geita, Simiyu, Shinyanga, Kagera, Mara and Mwanza regions.