Maternal, child deaths alarming in Arusha Region
By Arusha Times Correspondent
Maternal and child deaths in Arusha region, particularly in the rural areas, are alarming, according to recent statistics.
The situation has been attributed to the traditions whereby expectant mothers preferred delivering at homes, rather than in hospitals, under the care of ill-equipped traditional birth attendants.
Statistics from the regional secretariat indicate that 504 infants aged 0 to 28 days died last year alongside with 52 mothers who had just delivered.
Only 38 per cent of expectant mothers accessed the clinic facilities while the target is to have 60 per cent of them attending hospitals for pre-natal services.
Speaking during a meeting of religious and traditional leaders from all the seven local authorities in the vast region, Arusha city, Arusha district council, Meru, Monduli, Longido, Karatu and Ngorongoro, the chief nursing officer Ms Mwamini Nyakwela said efforts must be made to address the crisis.
The meeting, organized by EngenderHealth, aimed to sensitize leaders of the community and other stakeholders on how to reduce the increasing cases of maternal and child health especially among the pastoralist families.
She said it was unfortunate that many pregnant women among the traditional livestock herders despised going to deliver in hospitals and other health facilities.
"That is why this time around we have involved the religious and traditional elders in this campaign", Ms Nyakwela pointed out, stressing that to contain the crisis was through sensitization of the general public on benefits of attending clinics and delivering in hospitals.
A senior medical officer with the Naberera health centre in Simanjiro district in neighbouring Manyara region Dr. Loishorua Ole Yamati lauded the non-governmental organisation (EngenderHealth) for involving the community leaders, including the Laigwanan, in addressing the alarming maternal and child deaths.
He implored on the traditional birth attendants to allow pregnant women to go to hospitals and modern health facilities for delivery rather than at home.
The head of the Lutheran Church in Karatu Rev. Samwel Slaa emphasized the need for public awareness on the issue and commended the initiative taken by the NGP.
The startling situation on the plight of infants and pregnant women emerged only months after another report which indicated that maternal and infant mortality rates in Ngorongoro district were high, well above the national average, according a non-governmental organization called Acord.
Statistics indicated that 115 out of 1,000 children born die before reaching the age of five while 600 of 100,000 expectant mothers succumb due to ailments associated with delivery.
Nationally, the infant mortality rate has gone down to 81 out of 1,000 while maternal mortality rate has plummeted to 133 for each 100,000 women who deliver.
Acord, in collaboration with a local non-governmental organization operating in Ngorongoro called Angonet, has been conducting a sensitization programme on vaccination for women and young children.
The focus of the programme has been on ensuring safe delivery for expectant women, said an official of the NGO (Acord), Lokola Ndibalema following the recent vaccination exercise.
The vaccination campaign involved sensitization of the community and donation of the necessary equipment to traditional birth attendants who are responsible for over 80 per cent of deliveries in the area.