Health sector winds down with big goals

Monday November 22 2021
Health pic

Lilian Erasmus of T-MARC briefing President Jakaya Kikwete and other delegates about T-MARC services when they visited the stand at the RMNCAH conference. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Salome Gregory

Last week was filled with a lot of different discussions in the health field as the yearly science conference on Reproductive Maternal, New-borns, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) topics brought together hundreds of health stakeholders to discuss on how these matters can be improved and save lives.

Different activities like health related exhibitions and meetings took place at the Julius Nyerere Convention Centre from 17th to 19th November this year.

The conference which was officiated by the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, launched the new agenda for family planning 2030 with four priorities with the aim of reducing maternal and neonatal deaths.

The priorities include strengthening professional abilities with the aim of improving services, improving medical and treatment technology, availability of statistics on maternal deaths and plans for health and nutrition among the youth.

“The Family Planning agenda 2030 is amongst the government plans that aims to create the best and strongest health services, to protect a mother and a child by investing in family planning as it is very important in the development of the economy,” said the Prime Minister.

He also added that there is a need for a curriculum review which aims at identifying the right education to be given, depending on the age groups of the students.

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The review has to also consider the right balanced diet among the youth as a way of strengthening the reproductive health agenda.

The meeting brought together different personalities from different places in the world with retired President Jakaya Kikwete was among the honoured guests.

The former President said that maternal and neonatal deaths is something makes him feel bad. He entered office when the country had 578 deaths among every 100,000 live births.

He commended the late President Benjamini Mkapa for his effort in reducing maternal deaths because he entered office when maternal death was at 700 among 100,000 live deaths.

Commenting on his time in office, President Kikwete said he struggled and managed to leave the country with 432 deaths among 100,000 live births and the country managed to meet its target in 2014.

With neonatal deaths, the numbers stood at 191 among 100,000 live births.

He called upon health workers and stakeholders to invest more in providing quality service to clients in both private and government hospitals as a way of reducing death and health risks that are likely to happen due to negligence.

President Kikwete challenged scientists who attended the conference to make sure they conduct intensive research and come up with solutions that will get the country to no more cases on maternal and neonatal deaths.


Safe Delivery

As part of accepting an engaging challenge from President Kikwete, the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) and Maternity Foundation in partnership with the Danish Embassy in Tanzania and the Ole Kirk Foundation launched the Safe Delivery App, a mobile training tool and job aid for healthcare workers to ensure safer childbirths for mothers and new-borns in Tanzania.

This launch took place on the last day of the event.

Presenting the app, Donat Shamba the Senior Research Scientist and Safe Delivery app project coordinator says, “The app has proven positive changes at Mpwapwa where we used it as the case study.”

“We have witnessed that the number of referral cases has reduced and now health workers can easily attend to patients with confidence due to the lessons they learn from the app. Health workers are more confident with what they do now compared to before they had access to the app,” says Shamba.

The app has 14 modules that are in both Kiswahili and English. The app can be used offline and is accompanied by pictures and videos for more visual understanding.

The modules are Covid-19, active management of third stage labour, infection prevention, post abortion care, hypertension, prolonged labour, post-partum haemorrhage, manual removal of placenta, maternal sepsis, neonatal resuscitation, new-born management, low birth weight and female genital mutilation.

The work was led by IHI and with important partners including Pediatrics Association of Tanzania (PAT) and the Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (AGOTA) contributing with thorough reviews and adaptations of the clinical content in the app.

“We are optimistic about the future. In the years ahead, our mission remains to identify the priority health needs of our people and to create scalable solutions for them. With the Safe Delivery App, our healthcare workers now have new tools to always refer to, update their knowledge and skills on how to handle different complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, so that no life should be lost during childbirth,” says Donat Shamba.

Available information from IHI shows that despite significant efforts by the government, the civil society, and international agencies to improve access to quality care for mothers and new-borns in Tanzania, the maternal mortality rate was still estimated at 556 per 100,000 live births in 2016.

One of the keys to improve maternal health is to secure proper training of and support to healthcare workers, and the Safe Delivery App is a handy, efficient, and innovative tool to do so.

“We are very happy to now be able to get the Safe Delivery App into the hands of midwives and other skilled birth attendants across Tanzania. They save lives every day, and with this new addition to their work and training, we can support them in that, thanks to great partnerships on the ground,” says Anna Felsen, CEO of Maternity Foundation.

The Danish ambassador to Tanzania, Mette Nørgaard Dissing-Spandet, says, improving maternal and new-born health is a priority for Denmark and Tanzania.

With the app, she hopes that we will see a reduction in the number of mothers dying while giving life.

Commenting on the conference, Lilian Erasmus of T MARC Tanzania says that the conference was very productive and it gave her an opportunity to learn and share different experiences with the people who visited her stand.

Since T MARC deals with educating people of reproductive health, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issues, nutrition and diseases, the conference provided a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing.

“Through the products displayed at our stand like condoms, sanitary pads, diapers for children and adults, family planning pills and more, I realized that the community lacks proper skills on how to wear and use some of these products as required. This can result in a lot of unplanned pregnancies and spread of HIV/AIDS,” says Lilian

“I had great time with visitors but a majority of them, even the elderly lacked basic skills on how best to wear condoms and this applied to the young adults too. Through the conference I was able to teach a very big number of people on how to wear condoms and we had everything here to support that training,” she explained.

She does acknowledge that she would like to hear more on improving maternal services as there is a lot of challenges around that area. She is among the women who went through delivery complications when having her second baby and if health workers were not careful enough, she may have lost her life.

Grace Munisi, the Senior Technical Advisor of gender for USAID’s Boresha Afya North and Central project said that the conference allowed her to share their study on the role of men in improving uptake of Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV services rights and products conducted in the northern and central zones of the country.

Through the study about, 50000 males and boys were equipped with gender transformative information through sessions and dialogues.

Out of those 37,751 were tested for HIV of whom about 1,466 (3.9 percent) tested positive, and 1,463 (99.8 percent) were properly enrolled into care and treatment.

“More engagement from men is needed as men do share in the responsibility and decision making. They are actively involved in parenthood, sexual reproductive behaviour, family planning, maternal and child health as well as HIV,” says Grace.

“Men also contribute to family income and resources, children’s education, health and nutrition issues,” added Grace.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year, about 303,000 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth while 2.8 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million stillbirths occur.

The majority of these deaths are preventable.

While the maternal mortality in Tanzania remains high; at 556 per 100,000 live births while neonatal mortality is 25 per 1000 live births; strides to cut down these numbers are underway and it takes all the team work we can muster.