Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Tanzania

Although maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) has seen improvements in Tanzania in the last few decades, Tanzanian women still face an unacceptably high risk of preventable morbidity and mortality during their reproductive years. Tanzania’s maternal mortality ratio remains high, at 454 deaths per 100,000 lives births, as does its neonatal mortality rate, at 26 deaths per 1,000 live births, and infant mortality rate, at 51 deaths per 1,000 live births.

A major cause of maternal and child deaths is lack of attention in health facilities and by skilled health providers. The 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey showed that antenatal care (ANC) attendance was often late and incomplete. While 96% of women attended ANC at least once,

    • Only 15% received their first ANC visit during their first trimester.
    • Less than half (43%) received the recommended four or more ANC visits.
    • Only 50% of births occurred in a health facility.
    • Only 51% of births were assisted by a skilled provider.

    The 2011-2012 Tanzania HIV/AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey revealed that malaria and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) indicators were also in need of improvement:

    • 60% of pregnant women received at least one dose of SP for the prevention of malaria in pregnancy at ANC but only 32% received the recommended two or more doses.
    • Insecticide treated net use by pregnant women the previous night had increased to 75%, but was still short of Tanzania’s target of 80% by 2013.
    • Just over half (52%) of women who gave birth in the last 2 years received pre-test counseling, had an HIV test, and received the results – an integral part of the PMTCT process.

    Additionally, many other behaviors related to healthy outcomes for mothers and their newborns were in need of attention. These topics were incorporated into the campaign strategy during Phase Two of the campaign. According to the TDHS 2010 (PDF):

    • The proportion of women who took iron and folic acid supplements during and after pregnancy and who received two or more tetanus toxoid injections during pregnancy was unacceptably low.
    • Less than half of children ever breastfed started breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, and only about half of infants under 6 months were exclusively breastfed.
    • About 60% of infants aged 6-59 months had been given vitamin A supplements in the previous six months, and only 66% of children were fully vaccinated at 12 months.
    • Women were receiving postnatal checkups at alarmingly low rates: 30.8% of women received a check-up within the recommended 2 days after giving birth, and 64.6% of women did not receive a postnatal check-up at all.