White Ribbon Alliance
Maternal health for all: Tanzania’s campaign for safe motherhood White Ribbon Alliance
More than 30 women and 180 newborns die every day in Tanzania due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth and lack of quality healthcare. Health centres often lack critical infrastructure, equipment and medicines, and many are understaffed with insufficient training to care for emergency births. Out of the 700 health centres in Tanzania, only 17% provide Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care services (CEmONC). Women who suffer from birth complications must therefore travel many miles to a larger regional hospital which could provide emergency care. Complications such as eclampsia, ruptured placenta, severe bleeding or a breach birth become life-threatening to the many pregnant women living far from a well-equipped hospital.
White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania works to achieve safe motherhood for all with their campaign: ‘Zero Tolerance to Maternal Deaths. Be Accountable’. Through their campaign they found that although the Tanzanian government had committed to ensuring 50% of health centres provide CEmONC by 2015; the reality on the ground was far from this. In the Rukwa region which was surveyed, only one health centre was equipped to provide blood transfusions and only two were providing caesarean sections.
At 40, Judith was already a mother of five. She had experienced severe bleeding during the delivery of her last child and this meant she was predisposed to haemorrhage during her next birth. Referred to Dodoma Regional Hospital, she travelled far from her family to be close to the life-saving services while waiting weeks to give birth. Judith had no option but to leave her 15-year old daughter in charge of her younger children, meaning she would fall behind in school. “Sometimes I cry when I think of my little girl performing all those adult responsibilities. She has to cook and take care of her siblings.”
To save the lives of women unable to access well-equipped hospitals and ensure that mothers like Judith don’t have to choose between their health and their children’s education, White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania advocated for the government to increase and ring-fence the CEmONC budget. Their advocacy efforts, made as part of a comprehensive campaign with partner organisations, led to significant changes to the Minister of Health’s 2017/2018 budget. The budget for maternal and new-born health was increased by 52.5% from the previous year. For the first time, it included specific targeted areas such as increasing the availability of oxytocin, magnesium sulphate and safe blood services for blood donation. In addition, the budget included plans to upgrade 150 health centres to provide CEmONC. When the Minister’s plan is implemented this year, 267 out of 700 health centres will provide CEmONC, which represents a substantial increase from 16.7% to 38%.
White Ribbon Alliance are making citizens aware of their rights and the government’s commitments so that they can demand better care. They are amplifying the voices of citizens and making policy-makers listen and respond to their needs. Their incredible achievements indicate the staggering impact of people joining together to achieve safe motherhood.