Each year, many new born infants and children under 5 years are dying in Tanzania. Each year, measures that are put into place to reduce the child mortality rate in Tanzania are jeopardized by insufficient mechanisms and methods for care and rehabilitative treatment services at all levels in the country.
Reports show that in the past ten years Tanzania has made little progress in child health with a rate of 137 deaths per 1000 live births to only 81 deaths per 1000 live births for children under five, and 88 to 51 deaths per 1000 live births for infants.
This means that a large number of parents have lost their new born infants and many children aged 0-5 years due to the challenges facing the health sector, including: understaffing, lack of essential medical supplies and long distance walking distances to healthcare facilities.
Hussein Thabit, a Dar es Salaam resident and a parent who have recently lost his first newborn, said that problems in the health sector within the country have become a threat to many pregnant women and their families, and compromise on whether a delivery will be safe enough for the survival of both the infant and the mother.
“Nowadays when a wife becomes pregnant, you start getting worried of whether she will give birth to a new born safely or a baby will die, and a threat is no longer to the safety of the baby but also the mother herself,” he said.
The deaths of children at a small age seems to be a catastrophe to Tanzania, which is trying to fulfill the fourth Millennium Development Goal of 2000 by 2015. According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre Report of 2012 rural area residents in Tanzania have been largely affected by the challenges in the health sector, particularly the increase of children’s death in relation to those living to urban and large cities.
The report indicates that in rural areas only 42 percent of mothers deliver at health facilities compared to 82 percent in urban areas.
Rogers Fungo a program officer at the Global Network of Religion for Children (GNRC-Africa), a non-governmental organization that deals with children rights, said that the government is the major player in ensuring child mortality is targeted and reduced, and for a long time the government and its institutions have not done enough to improve the facilities in health sector to a reasonable standard.
“For instance, according to Uwazi Report Article of 2010, one decade ago approximately 600,000 children under 5 years died from malnutrition and in 2010 about 43,000 children under 5 years were estimated to die early, this is an average of one child death in 12 minutes, you can imagine how little has been done and achieved even after 50 years of independence” he said.
However, Abdallah Kitumbi, a member of district constitution amendment council, urges that the upcoming constitution must guarantee the right to health in its bill of rights to both children and all citizens, which is different from the current constitution.
“We are fighting in our constitutional councils to ensure the coming constitution provides full right of health access to all citizens and force the government to provide adequate health services to avoid losing more children who are the upcoming generation of this nation” he confidently said.
Efforts to access information on the actions that are being under taken by the government on the matter from the relevant individual could not bear fruits, after all the calls were not picked up. However, a responsible Minister of Health and Social Welfare was once quoted in budget sessions in parliament to have said that efforts have been taken to reduce deaths of children and infants, including the training of more health specialists and implementation of education on primary health care to parents.
Rashid has worked extensively as a volunteer with various non-governmental organizations which advocate on issues of human rights, climate change and peace issues. In his free time, he likes to talk politics and discuss different regional and national issues of development with peers and policy makers.