Make mothers and babies a priority

Chiku Lweno-Aboud urges Member of Parliament candidates in Tanzania to address the issue of maternal and newborn mortality by suggesting concrete strategies and policies.

I am typing this with less than a week to the 2015 general elections in Tanzania. It is one of its kind, there is more citizen’s interest and involvement in the campaigns at all levels. Voters will elect the President, Members of Parliament and Councillors.

As they borrowed  from narratives of  government strategies and policies, we have heard candidates touch on the important issue of survival of Tanzanian mothers and babies. Most Presidential candidates have spoken about quality of care during delivery, distance from emergency services and human resources.

But what was not coming out loud enough were the voices of Member of Parliament candidates. We needed them to understand the scale of the problem and speak how they plan to address the situation.

These potential  citizens representatives’ voices need to be heard because every year in Tanzania 7,900 women die due to complications during childbirth and 40,000 newborn babies die within a 28 days of their lives.

More shocking, 100,000 die before they reach their fifth birthday. Many of these deaths could be prevented a fact that underscores the  importance of the voices of these future policy makers who also participate in crucial budget approval processes. We need to know how they plan to reduce these staggering numbers of deaths, many of which could be prevented.

Enter a unique collaboration of The Coalition for Access to Contraception (TCAC) and the Union of Tanzanian Press Clubs (UTPC). TCAC comprised of organisations advocating for maternal newborn, child and adolescent health in the country while UTPC simply put is journalists across Tanzania members of regional Press Clubs.

As part of TCAC, Mama Ye! is coordinating this unique brand of advocacy and we have four key questions to candidates in all 27 regions of Tanzania. Here are the questions:

  1. Explain your position on family planning and maternal and new-born health care and if you believe that it should be a priority for government to enable all women to access these services and why?
  2. 44% of young Tanzanian women experience pregnancy by the age of 19. Do you believe that more effort should be made to enable young people to access family planning and, if so, what will you do to support this if elected?
  3. Tanzania ranks 7th globally for the annual number of maternal deaths. Furthermore, every year nearly 40,000 babies die within their first month of life. Should you be elected what steps will you personally take to champion family planning, maternal and newborn health nationally and in your constituency?
  4. If elected, will you work to increase both national and your local council budget allocations to family planning and safe motherhood?

This unique media campaign kicked off on September 7, 2015 after a two-day training of the journalists on the link between family planning and safe motherhood.  While the candidates were busy chasing votes, our champion journalists pursued them to spare their valuable time to speak of their commitment to solve the burning social-economic issue felt in each constituency.

We had 7 weeks. Almost two months that flew by very quickly, resulted in over candidate 100 interviews. Important plans and strategies of these hopefuls were aired and published through articles in the mainstream and local media at community level across the vast terrains of our beautiful country. 

But another sober truth is that within that time over 1000 women and 6000 newborns have died due to complications during childbirth…

Maternal and newborn survival needs to top the agenda of anyone that is expecting to get my vote and that of many Tanzanians.

So here at Mama Ye! we are saying…


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