This project brings together researchers, a Tanzanian hospital and NGOs with the objective of reducing the rate of maternal death and infant mortality by 30 per cent in Tanzania’s Bunda and Tarime Districts.
Why this project is important
Globally, nearly 300,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth in 2012. With one of the world’s highest rates of maternal and child mortality, Tanzania is at the centre of this international health challenge. It is one of ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that, combined, account for over 60 per cent of maternal and newborn deaths.
Death from childbirth is one of the greatest challenges facing African women today, particularly in rural communities. Women who deliver outside of a health care institution are most at risk as they do not have access to life-saving medications or skilled attendants. As a consequence, it is estimated that 454 women per 100,000 (2010) in Tanzania die during childbirth, and nearly 50,000 Tanzanian babies are stillborn, almost half of them dying during childbirth. The leading causes of maternal and newborn mortality in Tanzania’s Mara Region are post-partum haemorrhage (35 per cent) and infections (15 per cent).
The death of mothers has a catastrophic impact on families, and is directly related to neonatal and childhood deaths because the absence of a mother compromises the care of infants and children.
Project strategies and objectives
In addition to addressing the leading causes of maternal and newborn mortality, this project’s goal is to demonstrate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of implementing a distribution system of safe birth kits to pregnant women. These kits will be distributed to pregnant women living in rural Tanzania and will include Misoprostol, a drug that helps prevent post-partum haemorrhage.
Improving Maternal and Newborn Health Services with an Enhanced Role for Community Health Workers:
Through the Saving Mothers Project, 118 Community Health Workers (CHWs) and 42 Dispensary Nurses will participate in specialized Maternal, Newborn and Child Health training. Topics will include the care of pregnant women, safe delivery, identification of potential high-risk pregnancies and recognizing “danger signs”, pre- and post-natal nutrition, ante-natal and post-natal care, community integrated management of childhood illness, HIV and how to prevent vertical transmission of the virus, and human rights.
One of the most important roles of CHWs is to encourage women to visit health facilities and avail themselves of the full range of pre- and post-natal medical care available and, whenever possible, to have their baby delivered at a health facility.
- Increasing the Availability of Subsidized Clean Delivery Kits that contain Misoprostol:
Though women are encouraged to give birth at a health factility, the reality is that in the Mara Region as many as 60 per cent of births take place in the home with the assistance of a family member or a traditional birth attendant.
Providing free or subsidized clean delivery kits to pregnant women is an effective way to reduce sepsis (infections) that can affect both the mother and the newborn. The birth kits’ instructions stress the importance of hygiene and sanitation throughout the birthing process and they contain Misoprostol, a World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed anti-haemorrhage drug.
- Enhancing real-time data collection using mobile tools
Community Health Workers and dispensary staff will be trained on mobile technology that will be used to collect data on pregnant women in their communities. This will include tracking the number of pregnant women, ante-natal and post-natal care visits, and expected due dates to help monitor and coordinate the treatments provided to women. The mobile technology will also help ensure there is a ready supply of clean delivery kits available for every woman who needs one.