Tanzania still not a safe place for newborns and their mothers– UNICEF

26Feb 2018
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
Tanzania still not a safe place for newborns and their mothers– UNICEF

Approximately 39,000 die annually, 17,000 of them in their first day of life. An additional 47,550 are still born and some 8,000 mothers die yearly during child birth.


Tanzania named among countries with scary newborn mortality rates

While Tanzania has significantly reduced deaths among under five, the country is still not a safe place for newborns and their mothers, a new report released recently by UNICEF shows

The report also shows that deaths of newborn babies remain alarmingly high globally, particularly among the world’s poorest countries. Babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance of survival, while those in Pakistan, the Central African Republic, and Afghanistan face the worst odds.

Tanzania has one of the highest numbers of newborn deaths in the world whereas approximately 39,000 die annually, 17,000 of them in their first day of life. An additional 47,550 babies are stillborn and some 8,000 mothers die every year during childbirth.

The report notes that although significant progress has been made in under-five mortality, challenges still persist because 270 children under-five still die every day, mostly from preventable causes such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea.

“About 6 in 10 deaths occur in the first year of life, while 4 in 10 deaths occur in the first month of life. We can save these lives with simple and affordable, quality health services that need to reach and be accessed by every mother and her newborn, across the country, the report quotes Maniza Zaman, UNICEF representative in Tanzania, as saying.

She adds: “UNICEF is committed to support the government’s endeavours in reducing the newborn mortality rate. We all need to commit to giving every child a fair chance at the start of life. It’s both the right and the smart thing to do.”

According to the report, more than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth, or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis. These deaths can be prevented with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.

However, it adds, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive. For example, while in Norway there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives to serve 10,000 people, that ratio is 1 per 10,000 in Somalia.

“Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life. One million of them die the day they are born,” Zaman said.

She added: "We know we can save the vast majority of these babies with affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and every newborn. Just a few small steps from all of us can help ensure the first small steps of each of these young lives.”

In Tanzania, a year-long campaign has been planned to support the amplification of issues around maternal and newborn deaths in the country. The aim will be to create a national momentum on the issue, targeting the most disadvantaged adolescents, pregnant and lactating women.

“While we have more than halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century, we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children who are less than one month old,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly we are failing the world’s poorest babies.”

Globally, in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births, the report says. In high-income countries, that rate is 3 deaths per 1,000 births.

In Tanzania, the newborn mortality rate stands at 25 deaths per 1,000 births, according to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS 2015-16).

“If every country brought its newborn mortality rate down to the high-income country average by 2030, 16 million lives could be saved,” the report urges.

The report also notes that 8 of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa, where pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions.

Babies born in the riskiest places are up to 50 times more likely to die than those from the safest places.