Breaking barriers to maternal health in Tanzania
By Sophia Alawode, Intern
Women in the Kilolo and Mufindi districts of Iringa region, Tanzania are currently facing barriers that prevent them from accessing essential health services. The barriers include the high cost of health services, cultural practices, and the low participation of men in Antenatal Care (ANC). These barriers have led to a 20% increase in women dying while giving birth and a 60% increase in newborn deaths between the year 2012-2015.
For example, women are asked to come with their partners to their first ANC meeting. Together, they discuss with the health care provider the required care for the woman during her pregnancy. However, due to the fact that men’s involvement in ANC is low, many women do not attend their first ANC visits or follow-up visits. This puts women and their pregnancy at higher risk.
In order to break down these barriers, HealthBridge is working with local partners to encourage community participation in the health sector. Local partners have created Women Participatory Learning and Action Groups (WPLAG). The groups are led by a champion woman from the community who is trained to run smaller women’s group meetings. These groups include women from ages 15 to 49 years (the reproductive age of women), women who have recently experienced childbirth or are pregnant at the time of the group formation and champion women in the village or community (community mothers). During the women’s meeting, issues that affect the health services of mothers and children are discussed and possible solutions are outlined as well. The women’s group are important because it allows members of the community to actively participate in the changes they want to see in the health sector.
HealthBridge is working in the Iringa region alongside the Institute of Development, Dar es Salaam and the Iringa Region Health Department to implement the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) project. The project focuses on addressing barriers that women in the Iringa region face to access health services. The project aims to improve access to health services and quality of care for mothers and children in Tanzania. This project aims is understand the process and context of the service at community level; understand how the demand and supply of the service may influence the intervention of the service; and assess the impact at community level of the MNCH service. The project will be implemented from September 2015 to March 2020.