For many women and girls in remote parts of Tanzania, pregnancy can mean a lack of special antenatal services -- or travel to a clinic that offers such services. Many die as a result: the main causes of maternal and newborn mortality in northern Tanzania are distance to health facilities and a high rate of hemorrhage and eclampsia.
Specialised care in remote areas could help solve both problems. For Dr Simiyu, head of the maternity ward at Nansio hospital on remote Ukerewe Island, upgrades to the hospital and training for staff mean that pregnant women can get specialised care on the island instead of traveling to the mainland for treatment. Pictured here, she treats a woman with pre-eclampsia, a condition in pregnancy that can put both the mother and baby at risk.
Dr Simiyu is one of the doctors working at the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)-supported health clinics and hospitals in the eight districts of the Mwanza Region, bordering Lake Victoria. With a C$ 12 million grant from Global Affairs Canada, the AKF programme is working to reduce maternal and newborn mortality among almost 1 million people (695,000 women and girls; 279,400 men and boys).
AKF works to address major reproductive, maternal and newborn health challenges, including improving the availability and quality of maternal and newborn health services -- and increasing the use of those services by women and their families.
To that end, the project has upgraded and equipped 80 public health facilities to deliver better emergency obstetric and newborn care. It has worked on the administrative side with health system management to enhance planning, budgeting, and quality service delivery. It has worked to build the knowledge and skills of health professionals and community volunteers in high-impact areas. It has also worked with communities to promote and practice healthy behaviours that support positive reproductive, maternal and newborn health outcomes. The project is designed to be comprehensive, even working to advance gender equality and concern for the environment.
An additional 320,918 men are expected to be included in the project through community sensitisation activities aimed at improving maternal and newborn health outcomes.
While working to improve maternal and newborn mortality rates in Mwanza, Tanzania, AKF is also addressing the new challenges posed by COVID-19. To address those challenges, AKF is complementing the government’s efforts in provision of adequate personal protective equipment to health care providers while procuring equipment and supplies for the newly established isolation centres and Highly Infectious Disease Units. It is supporting the government coordinating efforts by facilitating the regional supportive supervision to the councils by providing transport. It is creating radio programmes with a focus on COVID-19 and disseminating information on the virus, including trainings for Community Health Workers, Community Based Savings Groups and Care Groups, and printing and distributing relevant IEC materials.