By Nuru Ngailo, Communications, Advocacy and Documentation Officer, Uzazi Uzima Project
My desire is to see that there is access to health care services for all and to ensure that decision makers at both local and national levels are ensuring that all citizens, without any form of discrimination, are provided with health care services.
As the Communications and Advocacy Officer for the Uzazi Uzima project, part of my job is working with local government to ensure policies are in place that will help reduce the high rate of maternal and newborn mortality in the Simiyu Region.
I recently conducted an advocacy meeting with 46 members of the full council from all six councils of Simiyu Region to discuss working in partnership with the project. I approached Councillors to work with them because they have a crucial role in their communities. I presented to the Councillors on Amref Health Africa’s work in general and its Uzazi Uzima project that we carry out in partnership with Marie Stopes Tanzania through financial support from the Government of Canada. Together, the Councillors and I had a detailed discussion on how best we can all work together to achieve the project goal of reducing the maternal mortality rate at the region. The project has a strong focus on adolescent girls who face an increased risk of complications and death when they become pregnant at a young age.
Councillors are elected to represent their local communities in the running of their local councils and they have an important role in many of the major decisions that affect people’s lives. At the council, their role also includes contributing to the development of policies and strategies, including budget setting, scrutinising council decisions or making decisions on planning. Through these powers, Councillors can affect decisions on women’s health through ensuring that they approve budgets at the local level that are favourable to women’s pressing health needs.
By the end of the meeting, Councillors expressed their support for Uzazi Uzima and committed to continue working with the project to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Simiyu region through taking up what they have learned about Uzazi Uzima project back to their communities to get everyone involved in the project.
One of the Councillors who attended the meeting, Hon. John Charles Lukale, a representative of Igalukilo Ward in Busega, said: “The meeting has been very useful to me as a representative of the community. Having grasped that the Uzazi Uzima project intends to partner with the communities, I will ensure that I bring the project closer to my community at Igalukilo; when I go back I commit to create awareness to mothers in my area so that they deliver at health facilities and to ensure that Community Health Workers are recognised by my community and are supported. As a leader I will stand by this.”
"Now that the conversation with councillors has started, my team and I will continue to work closely with them to reduce the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Simiyu region through ensuring that Community Health Workers are recognised at the local government level and are supported in their work towards reducing the maternal mortality rate in the region,” he said.
The Uzazi Uzima (Kiswahili for ‘Safe Deliveries’) project is a partnership among Amref Health Africa and Marie Stopes, with Deloitte as a service partner, which is focused on reducing maternal mortality and morbidity rates in Tanzania. With support of $10.2 million from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada (93% of the total project budget), this four-year project aims to directly reach 348,567 women and adolescent girls and 334,515 men and adolescent boys in six district councils in the region of Simiyu.
The partners are working together with communities in Simiyu region to: improve the knowledge and skills of health workers to provide sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal care and family planning for women and adolescent girls and boys; refurbish health facilities and dispensaries, including infrastructure for clean water and sanitation; strengthen gender responsive health management systems; increase the use of health services through community outreach and advocacy; and, strengthen community and government engagement.