Maternal Health Program, Tanzania

The maternal health project is a joint effort between the Tanzanian government, World Lung Foundation (WLF) as implementers, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has funded this effort for the past seven years. The goal of this program is to increase access to emergency obstetric care, and to reduce maternal deaths.

WLF in Dar Es Salaam is the operational arm of the project with a team of medical training and administrative staff on the ground under the responsibility of the new project director, Dr Nguke Mwakatundu since 1st of August 2013.

Tanzania, in particular, has maternal mortality rates that are extremely high. According to recent estimates, women in Tanzania have a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth of 1 in 38, which is more than 60 times the figures in the USA.  The maternal mortality ratio in the country is 460 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

The model being implemented in Tanzania takes a comprehensive approach – it has contributed bricks and mortar to build and renovate facilities to enable adequate infrastructure at rural health centers; it continues to train non-doctor health workers to learn how to do surgeries and carry out complicated deliveries; and works closely with the government to see to it that there are adequate and appropriate tools for patient care. The result is that life-saving skills are available at local health centers in rural regions.

The initiative trains assistant medical officers and midwives in remote areas to perform life-saving procedures including caesarean sections and upgrades isolated health centers.

The aim of the initiative has been to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by improving women’s access to good-quality emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural and isolated areas. Tanzania has the fifth highest number of maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa and the eighth highest in the world. Although progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality, the country is still not on track to achieve MDG 5 by 2015. The Bloomberg Philanthropies Maternal Health Initiative has shown results in the decline of maternal deaths in areas where they operate and an increase in utilization of delivery care.

Almost every community in Tanzania has access to a health care center that can provide basic health care services. The program has upgraded these health centers by constructing operating rooms and other critical infrastructure needed for comprehensive emergency obstetric care.

The program trains non-physician clinicians – called Assistant Medical Officers (AMO) – to manage complicated deliveries, including caesarian sections, and nurse midwives to administer anaesthesia.

So far, the initiative has trained over 100 non-physician clinicians in comprehensive emergency obstetric care or anaesthesia.

The program is expected to impact 50000 women and children by 2016.