MAISHA is a Kiswahili word that means life, but under a programme being undertaken in Tanzania by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), it stands for Mothers and Infants, Safe Healthy Alive project. The Director of MAISHA Jhpiego Programme, Dr Dunstan Bishanga, says the scheme was established in 2008 and in Kilimanjaro Region in close collaboration with district and regional authorities.
He says the programme has covered 251 facilities throughout the country and the American people are happy with cooperation they get from Tanzanians.
The MAISHA programme includes supportive supervision skills in handling expectant mothers to during delivery and taking care of the newborns. Healthcare workers in different areas of the country have been trained in providing services to pregnant mothers and babies with basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care. Dr Bishanga says the project is run in Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar to combat maternal mortality .
The MAISHA consortium led by Jhpiego has been strengthening antenatal care, basic emergency obstetric and newborn care and community-level services to reduce maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
The programme also addresses cervical cancer prevention and pre-service education of doctors and nurse and midwives. In Kilimanjaro Region, the MAISHA Programme has been widely appreciated and this became evident on May 16, this year, at an event held at Mawenzi Regional Referral Hospital as workers of all ranks celebrated the success of the project.
Moshi District Commissioner (DC), Dr Ibrahim Msengi, inaugurated renovated wards under the project to strengthen health services for women and children.
The renovation of the wards was completed in March, this year, for an estimated cost of 10m/-. Another work done was repair of the drainage system at the hospital and restoration of the maternity ward store, laundry and washrooms. Dr Msengi praised Americans for their generous contribution to Tanzania to revitalise its sector but combating maternal and infant mortality.
Recalling the past, Dr Msengi said that out of 10 babies born, seven or eight died before they attained the age of five years. Kilimanjaro Regional Medical Officer, Dr Mtumwa Mwako, said that with the help of the American people and concerted efforts of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the campaign against maternal and child mortality has gained ground.
She said in Tanzania 450 per 100,000 newborns die every year, while the rate for Kilimanjaro Region is 109 per 100,000 babies. With an estimated 8,500 maternal deaths annually, Tanzania is one of ten countries that account for 60 per cent of maternal mortality globally.
Furthermore, 50 per cent of maternal and neonatal deaths in the country occur within the first 24 hours after delivery. The MAISHA programme ends in Kilimanjaro Region this year. It might seem sad to some but in reality what has been achieved is great given the huge size of Tanzania and its population.
Dr Bishanga says he is happy that health services in Kilimanjaro Region have tremendously improved from in dispensaries and health centres.
“As if to confirm this, an inspection that was carried out by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on quality of services to mothers and babies by using standard-based management and recognition proved that quality has gone up three times from 21 per cent when the programme started in 2010,” says Dr Bishanga.
He says that six health centres in Kilimanjaro Region have been recognised nationally after attaining a 70 per cent mark. These health facilities are Majengo and Pasua in Moshi District, Tarakea and Karume in Rombo District, Mwanga in Mwanga District and Masama in Hai District.
Mr Eric Mlanga, a USAID Tanzania representative, says his organisation is happy to partner with the government of Tanzania in implementing such an ambitious project. “Since 2008 we have been working with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to make Tanzania a safer place to be a mother and a place where children thrive.
We have worked together with both the central and regional administrations to expand access to and scale-up proven interventions that address the major causes of maternal deaths and morbidity,” Mlanga says.
He says that by using MAISHA’s competency -based basic emergency obstetric and newborn care platform, over 290 facilities countrywide have been strengthened.
Out of these centres, 15 are in Kilimanjaro Region providing quality services, training, coaching and mentoring. “We know that one reason that pregnant women are hesitant to or delay in seeking health services at a facility is the condition at most of our hospitals.
We not only strengthen infection prevention control, but we also provide a friendly environment that encourages more pregnant women to seek services at clean, safe and friendly wards,” Mr Mlanga says.