The move is also in line with ongoing countrywide campaigns to cut maternal and infant mortality from the current 556 to 292 per 100,000 women and infant mortality from the current 25 to 16 per 1,000 by 2020.
Statistics issued by the Regional Medical Officer, Dr Thomas Rutachunzibwa showed that in 2017 maternal deaths stood at 195 and last year dropped to 151 deaths, while from April to September this year, recorded maternal deaths were 78.
“Our aim is to reduce the deaths from the current three digits to two digits in the next three years as we’re aiming to a single digit,” Dr Rutachunzibwa said when speaking to a group of journalists, who visited his office last week.
He said that regional authorities have put in place a number of strategies to scale down maternal deaths in the Lake Zone region, with a population of more than one million.
Scaling up family planning services is one among strategies to reduce maternal deaths, the regional chief physician noted.
Education on family planning is provided in most health facilities across the region.
“To us this is an important aspect as family planning creates a platform for women to understand key issues on child spacing and safe maternal health,” he said.
“Through the family planning programme, health workers educate expectant mums on the dangers of using labour-inducing herbs—one of the contributing factors to maternal deaths in the region,” the medic intoned.
Dr Rutachunzibwa noted that construction of 14 new health centers and renovation of 24 others contributed to addressing maternal health problems and curb deaths in the region.
“In every district, two health centers provide surgery services. This reduces distances for expectant mums earlier having to reach district health facilities for delivery.”
“We’re also building capacities of our healthcare workers. In this we’re empowering them with best ways of providing healthcare services to expectant mums in health facilities,” he stated.
“This year, we’ve sent 20 of them for training and last year we sent 17 for the same purpose…there are more than 400 workers who have undergone short and long term courses on Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services.
“This shows how we’re serious on this,” he said, elaborating that every three months, a team of experts from different levels chaired by the regional commissioner meets to deliberate on a number of issues related towards improving MCH services in the region.
“We want to involve everybody in this campaign,” he said, citing Sengerema one a role model in scaling up education on MCH services in the region.
“We also partners with chiefs and the religious leaders in an effort to enhance maternal health, adolescent sexual reproductive health and many other issues in order to improve the health of our people at the community level,” says Dr Rutachunzibwa.
Cecilia Mrema, Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator (RCH-CO), said that life saving drugs such as ferrous sulfate, mesoprostol and oxytocin are now available in all health facilities across the region. “These drugs are important in reducing maternal mortality and thus need to be available in health facilities all the time.”
The region has also formed reproductive healthcare committees at the community level.
“These committees have helped us to bring down maternal deaths in the region as they have been doing well in this area,” Mrema affirmed.
She also cited the use of community radio as an effective tool towards encouraging women to access health facilities as early as possible and encouraging men to be part of the campaign as change agents.
“We’ve formed a clinical auditing team that moves in all health facilities and audit all procedures that are involved in MCH services. This idea saves mothers and the unborn,” she declared.
“Responsible maternity healthcare is our slogan that compels healthcare workers to provide competitive services to expectant mothers in all health facilities,” she stated.
This move came after realizing that many expectant mothers prefer home delivery due to abusive language they kept encountering with often poorly trained midwives in health facilities.
“So, the slogan has been useful in encouraging expectant mothers to use health facilities during delivery,” she said.
Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella commended the role played by the central government by supporting the construction of 14 new health centers which gobbled up 6bn/.
It also enabled the building of two district hospitals, one at Isanzu area in Ilemela municipality and Nyehunge in Buchosa town, Sengerema District, costing 3bn/- in the past three years.
“To us, this is a big achievement in our campaign to reduce maternal deaths to a single digit in the near future,” the RC underlined.
“In the past the challenge was availability and accessibility of healthcare services, but now this is no longer an issue. And we want to see these health facilities provide all the services needed for expectant mothers,” he emphasized.
“We’re also working on polishing up skills of medical practitioners so that they properly assist expectant mothers in their health facilities,” he pointed out.
The 2015-16 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and the Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHS-MIS) show that Mwanza, one among six regions of the Lake Zone records high maternal mortality, high fertility rate, low contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) and high HIV prevalence rate than the national rates.
While the national CPR stands at 32percent, Mwanza uses 18 percent and it has around 53 percent of births at health facilities. The Lake Zone fertility rate is 6.4 children per woman where 36 percent of children are stunted,
The neonatal mortality rate stands at 24 for every 1,000 live births while the HIV prevalence in the region is 7.2 percent, in contrast with 4.7 percent national prevalence rate, the report shows.
Tanzania’s maternal and child deaths rate is one of the highest in the world at 556 per 100,000 live births. For comparison, the ratio for all developing countries is 240 per 100,000 live births, and that for all developed countries is 16 per 100,000.
About 66 percent of mothers don't have postnatal check in first two days after birth, while unsafe abortion is also associated with high levels of morbidity, the report indicates.
TDHS-MIS 2015-16 points at increasing teenage pregnancy and motherhood, as 27 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child, compared with the national average where 17 percent of girls between the ages 15-19 are already mothers and another six percent are pregnant with their first child.