SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR MATERNAL HEALTH EMBRACED BY PARLIAMENTARIANS

By Anna Sawaki, WRA Tanzania Communication and Media Officer

White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania’s calls to Parliament to continue supporting the ongoing campaign on safe motherhood was highlighted in the capital city of Dodoma last month. The Parliamentarian Group for Safe Motherhood (PGSM) meeting brought together WRA Tanzania and Parliamentarians to promote social accountability for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) in order to effectively implement the ongoing strategy to provide guidance for implementation of RMNCAH interventions in the country. WRA Tanzania's strategy aims to accelerate reduction of preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality.

“Women know where services are, and if we upgrade our health facilities to provide Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) services, the women will use the services and we will be able to reduce or eliminate maternal and newborn death,” explained WRA Tanzania’s National Coordinator Rose Mlay.

According to United Nations estimates, forty-nine out of every one thousand children born alive died before their fifth birthday in 2015. Dr Sudha Sharma, UNICEF Tanzania’s Chief of Health, represented the UN at the meeting by telling the Parliamentarians that these deaths can go down even further if we combine efforts with members of Parliament. Through their unique power and their ability to influence the government’s plans and budgets, as well as the ability to influence people in their constituencies, lasting change can be made to reduce child mortality

In Tanzania, 581 out of 700 health facilities do not provide lifesaving services due to lack of funding for these vital emergency services, Sizarina Hamisi, WRA Tanzania’s Project Manager, explained to meeting participants. Nearly 990 million Tanzanian Shillings are needed for each facility to provide the emergency services that will help to eliminate preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths.

Hon. Suzan Kiwanga, MP from Mlimba constituency, appealed to other Members of Parliament to “especially budget for safe motherhood, which include CEmONC services.”

Hon. Hawa Ghasia, Chairperson of the Budget Committee, ended the meeting by urging the gathered MPs in spite of UN estimations that show there has lately been a drop in newborn deaths (from 165 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 49 per 1000 in 2015) – to put more effort into promoting social accountability for RMNCAH in order to eliminate preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality.

With promises from the MPs to call upon their fellow Parliamentarians to advocate for RMNCAH within Parliament during the upcoming 2017/2018 budget sessions, it seems like Tanzania’s women and children could have a brighter future in store for them.