White Ribbon Alliance

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Campaign Update: Tanzania one step closer to life saving care for women

July 17, 2014
As a result of the work of White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania, and for the first time ever, the government will include in the budget a specific line on life saving emergency obstetric care for women and newborns (CEmONC).

In Tanzania, two thirds of women give birth in their own homes, because there are very few health facilities within reach that can provide life-saving emergency services. The White Ribbon Tanzania national campaign, Wajibika Mama Aishi (Be Accountable so that Mothers Can Survive Childbirth), began in 2013 to urge the government to honor its commitment of providing a well-equipped health center with an operating theatre and laboratory in every ward, close to women's homes.

White Ribbon Alliance members and partners in Tanzania met with government officials at all levels to discuss the need for lifesaving services and qualified health workers in every health center, all within reach for every community in the country. The campaign stressed that when these services will be in place, maternal and newborn deaths will decrease. To reach this goal, the campaign called for the government to include a specific budget line to fund CEmONC.

Heartfelt stories of a difficult and sometimes tragic childbirth shared by White Ribbon Alliance members were so strong that the Prime Minister of Tanzania himself got involved and directed all relevant councils to ensure CEmONC was available at all health centers. White Ribbon partnered up with broadcast television stations to ensure that all communities hear about this commitment and that they demand accountability from their local representatives. In addition, White Ribbon Alliance worked with the Parliament Club for Safe Motherhood to gather the signatures of 96 members of the parliament to spotlight these issues at the highest levels of government, and to discuss the need for comprehensive emergency obstetric care services during the parliament budget session.

As a result of this work, this is the first time in history that the Tanzanian government included a specific line item for CEmONC in the national healthcare budget.

Moreover, every single district in the country has also included a line on CEmONC in their budgets, making the issue a priority at both the national and local levels. The explicit listing of CEmONC in the budget will allow citizens to monitor not only how much is allocated, but also how much is spent and this will lead to more effective advocacy to ensure all promised funds are actually disbursed.

The White Ribbon campaign in Tanzania continues, and the Alliance is now working with district health teams and community leaders to ensure that political commitments indeed turn into action. In July, the group headed by White Ribbon Alliance Coordinator in Tanzania, Rose Mlay, met with religious leaders in Rukwa, one of the country's larger regions. They will now mobilize their respective congregations to watch out and ensure CEmONC accessibility for all women. The Regional Commissioner, the Honorable Enge. Stella Manyanya, who was present at the meeting, told religious leaders that they are in a position to ensure that none of the women in their churches or mosques die in childbirth if they stand together and advocate on behalf of the community.

In the coming months, White Ribbon Alliance will continue to mobilize community members throughout the country in an effort to maintain pressure on the government to fulfill its promises and to have 50% of health centers around the country offer CEmONC by the end of 2015.