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Every baby needs a midwife

What a wonderful day for the Tanzanian programme! It was one of those days when you know exactly why it’s worth staying in the office long hours, struggling through fundraising, reporting and writing pages and pages of documents while trying to remember how on earth this is going to help children.

We were approached by Tanzanian Midwives Association (TAMA) only last week to help them organise events around the International Day of the Midwife on 5 May. The deadline was short, but it was such a pleasure working with them. We recognised that there was a common goal and commitment to saving newborns’ and mothers’ lives, and common understanding of the importance of health workers.

TAMA was impressed by our Every One campaign and provided us with an opportunity to collect thumbprints from participants during the conference they were organising, and invited us to make a speech about the campaign. We happily accepted, but didn’t really see what was coming…

Stopping traffic

Today, we joined TAMA and many other organisations for the march in Dar Es Salaam, stopping traffic and drawing people’s minds to the issues of preventable maternal and newborn deaths, and the need for midwives and family planning. The banners, brass band and dancing while walking certainly helped.

Finally, we came to Mnazi Mmoja grounds where the official programme started, with speeches from TAMA representatives, music, dancing and drama.

But it was when our Health Programme Manager, Dr Rachel Makunde, gave a speech that we could see media representatives coming quickly, taking notes, cameras flashing. Dr Makunde talked about the 1.3 million mothers in Tanzania who give birth without skilled birth attendants, about the 13,000 mothers who die during childbirth every year, and about the 50,000 babies who die before reaching their first birthday. She called on the Tanzanian government to act and ensure recruitment, training, retention and deployment of midwives and other health workers in order to close the gap of 88,700 health workers: every child has a right to live and every baby needs a midwife.

Support for midwives

Around 500 people listening to her cheered their support.

Dr Donald Mmbarado, a representative of the Ministry of Health, provided his thumbprint in support of our Every One campaign, adding to 222 thumbprints collected at the rally. He also gave a speech on behalf of the Ministry of Health where he promised to improve working conditions for midwives. He informed midwives that the ministry will be providing delivery kits to all health centres and delivery packs for supporting deliveries outside of health facilities. He recognised that the ministry needs to work more on community awareness and called for improved birth registration.

Spreading the message

During this time, we kept collecting thumbprints. Obviously inspired, famous Tanzanian artist Mrisho Mpoto, who was entertaining participants at the rally, took our thumbprint collection poster and went among the crowds to get their support, singing about Every One, the Millennium Development Goals and Save the Children.

The event ended with Dr Makunde giving final interviews to TV stations as we left the grounds. The small Save the Children team couldn’t be happier. We all felt that we really contributed to spreading the message that will eventually help to save children’s lives.

Dragana Strinic works for Save the Children Tanzania

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