Banks play a key role in reducing maternal and child mortality in Lake Zone regions

By Guardian Correspondent , The Guardian
Published at 11:46 AM Apr 17 2024
Former Missenyi District Commissioner, Col. Wilson Sakulo (3rd R) claps hands after receiving hospital beds and one examination bed for Luzinga Dispensary in the district from the then NMB Bank’s Acting Lake Zone Manager, Dickson Richard during a handover
Photo: File
Former Missenyi District Commissioner, Col. Wilson Sakulo (3rd R) claps hands after receiving hospital beds and one examination bed for Luzinga Dispensary in the district from the then NMB Bank’s Acting Lake Zone Manager, Dickson Richard during a handover

THE financial institutions have been playing a crucial role in reducing maternal and child mortality in Lake Zone regions— Kagera, Mwanza, Mara, and Geita.

They have been doing so through corporate social responsibility (CSR), which in turn complements the government’s efforts in improving people’s well-being.

In this area, NMB is one of the banks that made several strides in containing public health problems in the Lake Zone.

Like all other parts of the country, the densely populated region is a major recipient of medical supplies and equipment the bank supports health facilities with to back efforts of the government in bettering delivery of public health services.

The assistance, according to sectoral authorities, beneficiaries, and officials of the bank in the zone, has among other things helped to greatly boost Maternal and Child Health (MCH) care in the NMB Lake Zone regions, namely

They recently told journalists and NMB officials from head office that the delivery beds, hospital beds, mattresses, bedsheets, and delivery kits provided by the bank have been a worthy investment and a lifesaving intervention, which the public highly appreciates.

The team, which was in the zone to assess the impact of the lender’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives in three regions, was also informed of the tremendous improvement in treatment and other service delivery conditions.

Consequently, that has helped to drastically reduce mortality and morbidity rates but also went on to increase the number of MCH customers, the doctor-in-charge at Buzuruga Health Centre in Mwanza, Dr William Mtinginya, said.

“We have been able to reduce preventable deaths of mothers and newborns but on the other hand the number of maternal care customers has increased with 20 new mothers being attended every week,” he told the CSI revisit team.

“Previously, we were handling 200-300 deliveries a month but the number has now reached 600, which is a huge improvement that NMB has helped us to attain,” he added, noting that giving birth at home has equally plummeted.

At Katoro Health Centre which has also been a beneficiary of NMB corporate philanthropy, Dr Rhoda Haule rooted for similar support from other corporate entities, emphasizing that it was vital for closing the remaining gaps in the national bid to increase maternal and child survival.

She said the NMB beds have helped the health facility in Geita Region to do away with bed-sharing whereby three to five expectant mothers used to share the same bed before delivery.

Together with the remarkable achievement in the MCH wards that are now accommodating 750-900 mothers every month, Dr Haule said there was still room for more improvements, especially in the labor ward. 

“In total, we have 107 beds, which means that the service delivery situation will further improve if we can get more support from well-wishers like NMB Bank,” she stated, pointing out that the health center urgently requires modern laundry facilities.

 In Misungwi District, Mwanza, where Mwanangwa Dispensary serves a population of 20,000 people in Mabuki Ward and several neighboring villages, the CSR team learned a lot from Dr Consolata Simba.

Thanking NMB Bank for its support of seven delivery beds and ordinary hospital beds plus bedsheets and other supportive items, she said MCH care is essential not only to the lives of mothers and infants but also to the general welfare of society and well-being of the whole country at large. 

Dr Simba attributed some of these deaths to long distances to facilities and home deliveries that are not overseen by well-trained attendants.

Most MCH challenges are also an outcome of a critical shortage of skilled health providers, lack of basic equipment, a wanting referral system as well as low availability of emergency obstetric and newborn care services.

With about 390 children under five believed to die every day due to mainly preventable and treatable conditions in Tanzania as well as lack of basic equipment, newborn deaths account for about one-third of all child deaths nationally.

Sectoral experts and child health practitioners say the deaths are inextricably linked to the health of the mother during pregnancy and the conditions of delivery and newborn care, showing why the NMB healthcare support matters.

According to them, CSR, the bank continues to make in the health sector should not only be emulated by other corporates wishing Tanzania well but also scaled up for betterment of the quality of essential maternal, infant, and child health services across the country

As a socially responsible business, NMB Bank Plc is an unrivalled good corporate citizen in the Lake Zone regions, where like in all other parts of the country it leads sectoral peers in championing and undertaking noble social welfare causes.

“In line with our commitment to give back to society, we invest heavily in various social impact programs by setting aside one percent of the bank’s profit after tax every year for CSR spending,” the new NMB Lake Zone Manager, Wogofya Mfalamagoha, said.

“Last year, the CSR budget topped over 6bn/- to cater for sustainability activities that included tree planting to help address the effects of climate change,” Wogofya told the revisit team, noting that the health sector was among the top priorities of the bank’s social investments.

The CSR policy of NMB Bank is anchored on five pillars, which are education (and financial literacy), health, environment, agriculture, and entrepreneurship.

In line with national development priorities in the provision of quality healthcare, the lender finances the supply of medical supplies and equipment to health facilities across the country with a clear understanding of bed capacity being one of the challenges in many public hospitals.

Part of the 12bn/- CSR investments it had made in 10 years to 2021 supported over 600 health facilities nationwide and 42 that were financed during 2020-2022 when the CSI budgets amounted to 6.3bn/- benefited over 210,000 people.

NMB also supports the health sector with roofing materials as it did in Mara Region where in 2022 it provided 30m/- for the construction of an MCH ward at Busawe Dispensary in Serengeti District.

Doctor-in-charge Juma Rajabu Ali said that when the modern facility opens next month (May), four mothers will be able to deliver at a go compared to 2-3 deliveries that are currently handled in a day.

The youthful medic said the other positive impact of the support will be a reduction of infant mortality, which is now 15-20 percent due to the long distances expectant mothers have to walk to get MCH care.

“The timely intervention of NMB Bank to support completion of this project has impressed both leaders and people in this area because of its relevance in their lives and the wellbeing of their families,” a member of the project’s implementation committee, Alexander Faustin Machungu said.

The chairperson of Busawe Village, Suto Richard, said what NMB did was not unique to them but also a rare development that motivated people to volunteer labor and other construction services.

“We are grateful for the support this bank has accorded us because soon pregnant mothers in this area and neighboring villages will no longer have to walk long distances to deliver their babies,”  Robina Mahemba Machota said.

Commenting on other CSR initiatives, the Branch Manager of NMB Mugumu Branch, John Nyoni, said they work closely with local authorities and leaders to address societal challenges in the spirit of creating a positive imprint in society.