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June 2017
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Maternal and new-born health sensitization campaign yields good results

waziriMinister Dr Rashid addressing the journalists

A programme aimed at improving maternal and new-born survival, initiated in April, 2014 by Evidence for Action (E4A), in collaboration with Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC), has started yielding positive results.

Indicators that show how the maternal and new born health situation is steadily changing in Tanzania for the better were confirmed at a just ended two – day training for the programme’s mentors and champions, held in Dodoma.

Evaluating how well the programme has been implemented for the past six months, the participants contended that achievements registered during the period under review have simply outweighed the challenges, to a considerable extent.

In their presentations, the aforesaid mentors and champions, without giving statistics to authenticate their argument, they mentioned the way the programme has been greeted by the general public with enthusiasm as an overriding achievement.

Other positive results recorded, according to them, include higher level of spouses’ awareness of the importance of expectant mothers attending clinics and availability of essential drugs in health facilities.

Others are general improved working relations existing between journalism practitioners and health personnel at all levels, nurses and trained midwives reaching out to expectant mothers from marginalized ethnic tribes such as pastoralists and the Hadzabe people, who are widely viewed as remnants of gatherers and hunters.

Also in the list of achievements registered within a span of six months are that stern disciplinary measures have been taken against health personnel who have violated professional ethics and journalism practitioners have been accorded cooperation, making them play their pivotal information dissemination roles uninterruptedly. However, the training participants, drawn from 26 out of 27 Press Clubs, scattered all over United Republic of Tanzania, equally outlined a long list of challenges they encountered.

According to them, a poor state of infrastructural facilities and politically – motivated decisions made by  some government officials and legislators, concerning health sector – related issues, all have been hindrances to the programme’s smooth  implementation.

An incident in which an Ambulance which the Central Government had provided to Tumbi Hospital, in Coast region, only to be diverted by an undisclosed politician to a distant rural health facility is a classic example of  misuse of one’s (political) power.

Other drawbacks include some nurses and midwives staying far away from where their respective health facilities are located, traditional midwives being widely consulted still especially in the remotest rural area and traditions dictate what the expectant women should  or shouldn’t do, in relation to their pregnancy period.

An unnecessary bureaucracy tendency on the part of both officials of some Central

Government and Local Government Authorities, general public’s low level of awareness of the importance of donating blood to the needy patients and unethical practices by a handful of nurses, all have been pointed out as additional obstacles to an on-going maternal new – born health programme.

On the way - forward, the participants resolved that information dissemination methodology and infrastructural facilities be improved further by incorporating religious institutions in preaching the gospel of enhancing information on increased accountability for maternal and new-born survival in Tanzania, among others.

It was also resolved that for the health sector matters to be addressed meaningfully, the  politicians’ undue influence should not be condoned, both media owners and editors be exposed to a better and more enlarged understanding of and skills in maternal new – born health issues respectively.

In his greetings to the journalist practitioners earlier on, E4A Resident Executive Director, Mr Craig Ferla congratulated them all for what they have done well within a span of just six months, in terms of reaching out to the rural – based Tanzanians most of whom, he said, rarely have easy access to information, compared to their privileged urban counterparts.

He urged them to continue drumming relentlessly maternal new – born health issues to the entire society considering the staggering number of expectant mothers and infants who die before, during and after delivery.

The E4A Director put the current death toll at 7, 900 for mothers and 39,000 infants annually, a scenario which he described  as an appalling tragedy.

Midway through the first quarter of the training session, apparently after graciously having accepted E4A’s invitation, Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr  Seif Rashid, who is in Dodoma attending an on- going  Parliamentary session,  came to the conference room to exchange views with the journalists.

In his remarks, the Minister expressed appreciation to E4A for launching the on- going campaign aimed at improving maternal new – born health saying it is among crucially important  health programmes at which he is delighted.

He, however, reminded them of the importance of upholding set professional ethics considering that with the enormous power and influence they have, they can either usher in negative or positive results in the society.

On his side, he disclosed that his Ministry strives to make some structural changes aimed at ensuring health delivery uninterruptedly as well as generating income required for smooth running of health facilities in the country 

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