Dar es Salaam. Regional and district authorities across the country have been urged to borrow a leaf from community members of Uturo village in Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, which has not had a case of maternal death since 2008.
The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya gave the advice in Dar es Salaam when addressing reporters on the sidelines of a maternal health seminar organised by the World Bank (WB) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
The seminar aimed at reflecting on the current trend of maternal mortality and quality care in Tanzania and exchanging of best practices between government officials and experts from the WB, WHO and other international agencies.
This reporter sought to know how the government was leveraging on the role of the community in curbing the escalating cases of maternal mortality in Tanzania.
That’s when Dr Ulisubisya cited an example of the village from Mbarali District.
“Uturo has a unique history and mainly it’s the community members who decided that they didn’t want to see maternal deaths occurring in their area. The leaders mobilised community members and they set their own rules. They committed themselves to the cause, said Dr Ulisubisya.
When the PS visited the village in March last year, he says: “I was impressed when I found men joining hands with their wives, relatives, community members and leaders working in unison to ensure that no woman dies in child birth.”
Reports from the government and stakeholders have shown that about 8,000 women die every year during childbirth or due to pregnancy-related complications in Tanzania.
Currently, according to National Demographic and Health Survey, the maternal mortality ratio is 556 per 100,000 live births.
“Yes, the number is too high. But even if the death was one in every 100,000 live births, it would still be unacceptable. No woman should die during childbirth or pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a disease,’’ said the PS.
During the Seminar in Dar es Salaam, World Bank Group’s Primary Health Care Performance Initiative programme manager, Dr Jeremy Veillard called for strengthening of preventive services and community sensitisation as one of the key strategies in cutting down maternal mortality.
“Low rates of antenatal care and skilled birth attendance are key priorities to address in Tanzania’s maternal mortality challenges,’’ said Dr Veillard, a hospital administrator with a background in health systems research and experience leading transformation at the Ontario Ministry of Health.