The following is a guest blog is by Diana Shuma, Advocacy officer, DSW Tanzania.
Thanks to an EU-funded programme that promotes community healthcare, 36 staff have been deployed to a region of Tanzania where health workers were once virtually non-existent.
The village of Kware in the Hai District of Tanzania has long faced an acute shortage of health personnel. As a result, local health services have suffered.
Fifteen years ago, Kware’s only midwife passed away. Since then, the area – with a population of some 11,000 people – has been covered by just one doctor.
The situation was grave, as Manka Kway from the development and advocacy organisation DSW Tanzania explains: “Women, sometimes in urgent need of medical care, had to wait for the doctor to come back the next day or travel to another health facility. This costs money and is time-consuming and it endangers lives, especially of pregnant women and young children. We have been told that early this year a woman lost twins on her way to the district hospital. This could have been prevented had there been a full-time doctor or nurse at the dispensary.”
Masama South Ward Councillor Issa Kisanga tried to bring the situation to the attention of district health authorities. “We sent letters to the district medical officer asking for a new midwife for the village and were promised this would happen if we could just provide accommodation for her. Because of the urgent need for a midwife, we built a house for a midwife using our own money. But when it was finished, we did not get a new midwife and the house remained empty for more than 15 years.”
Thankfully help is at hand from an EU-funded project called Healthy Action. Since 2010, DSW has run the project in Tanzania, which empowers communities to advocate effectively on health issues. This includes holding their leaders and governments responsible and accountable for decisions that affect their lives.
In March 2012, the project brought together 32 community representatives from three villages, including Kware, to discuss the state of reproductive health services with district health officials. The result: new funds to recruit additional health workers to the district.
“For this financial year we have planned to employ an additional 36 health staff, including midwives. Priority will be given to health facilities at the community level and at the district hospital when allocating the new health staff,” says Dr Paul Chaote, Hai District Medical Officer, who took part in the consultation.
Healthy Action has shown ordinary Tanzanians that they can – and should – have a say in decisions affecting their health and well-being, and hold decision-makers accountable. By doing this, the project will contribute to better health for community members in the years to come.
DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung) is an international development and advocacy organisation. It empowers young people and communities in low- and middle-income countries by addressing the issue of population dynamics and by improving health as key to sustainable development. Find out more at www.dsw-online.org.
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