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Vital Stories

Taking Bold Steps in Maternal Health in Tanzania

A young woman arrives at Buhingu Health Center in Western Tanzania after three days of labor at home. By the time her mother, husband and the traditional birth attendant brought her to Buhingu, about six hours by motorbike from her village, she was in critical condition with dangerously low blood pressure. The providers could not detect the baby’s heartbeat, and though they were able to save the mother and repair her ruptured uterus, the baby did not survive.

According to the World Health Organization, including on International Women’s Day today, on average more than 800 women die each day from pregnancy or delivery-related conditions that are preventable and treatable. This represents a 43% decline from 1990. In Tanzania, where Vital Strategies has been supporting emergency obstetric and newborn care since 2008, maternal mortality has dropped 53% since 2000, but a woman still dies on average every hour, and a Tanzanian women has a 1 in 45 lifetime risk of maternal death.

Vital Strategies’ work in Tanzania is focused on bringing good-quality emergency obstetric and newborn care to the health center level, so women can receive care closer to home. Health centers in Tanzania generally do not have medical doctors on staff, but the woman survived at Buhingu because Vital Strategies has trained and supported assistant medical officers and nurses to provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care, including Cesarean section, anesthesia and blood transfusion, and upgraded the facility with surgical equipment and supplies. Buhingu is one of 15 facilities that Vital Strategies supports in Tanzania that can now provide this level of care. Vital Strategies’ clinical team of Tanzanian obstetricians and anesthesiologists provide training, mentoring and supportive supervision to the trained staff, and are available 24 hours by phone to help with challenging cases.

Vital Strategies is happy to join people around the world, joining the international call to Be bold for change. We recognizing the contributions of women in every village, city and country, while also shining a light on the unique challenges that must be addressed.