Safe Motherhood campaigners climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to commemorate women who died during childbirth.
By Anna Sawaki, White Ribbon Alliance Tanzania, Communication and Media Officer
On March 10, 2017 – White Ribbon Day - WRA Tanzania reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and told the world that maternal and newborn deaths are no longer tolerated – and that the rights of mothers to survive and thrive must be upheld. The Safe Motherhood campaigners began the journey to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro on March 4th, carrying with them a sign that proclaimed that maternal and newborn deaths are not tolerated, every one should be accountable.
Every day in Tanzania, 30 women and 180 newborns die due to pregnancy-related complications (DHS 2016). For every woman who dies, 30 other experience devastating disabilities, meaning 262,800 women experience complications such as fistula. Disabilities related to pregnancy and childbirth occurs to newborns as well. While some end their lives as newborns, never having the opportunity to grow up, others are born with complications leading to lifelong mental and physical disabilities (like the inability to learn how to walk). All these complications lead to a huge burden to parents, husbands of the affected wives, and the government.
Every person deserves to live with dignity, and to be given quality care as a fundamental human right. And, during childbirth, the most vulnerable time in a mother and newborns life, they deserve respectful, dignified care. Pregnancy is not a death sentence. The solution to the injustice of maternal deaths, and the abuse of mother’s rights during pregnancy and childbirth, is the timely accessibility of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) for every pregnant woman with a complication.
Despite the efforts made by the government to improve maternal and newborn services by increasing the number of centres that provide CEmONC (now up to 113 centres), we still need to remind the government of their commitment to outfitting at least 50% of Tanzanian health centres with CEmONC services.
Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister during the White Ribbon Day, Kilimanjaro Regional Commisioner Honourable Said Meck Sadiki said, “Every Tanzanian life is precious, our mothers’ lives count. That is why we have set a target of reducing maternal deaths to 291 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2020.”
In her speech, Rose Mlay, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood National Coordinator, said “It is known that once a pregnant women gets the basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC/CEmONC services), there is greater chance of rescuing the lives of mothers and babies during childbirth. We therefore need to invest in these lifesaving services.”
With their climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, WRA Tanzania has loudly proclaimed to the entire world that there will be “Zero Tolerance to Maternal Death” and that we all must “Be Accountable.”