Speech by Dr.Nguke Mwakatundu, Executive Director, Thamini Uhai
November 11th 2016
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Our Honorable Guest of Honor, Regional Medical Officers, Government officials, directors, representatives of development partners, staff and consultants, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen: Good Morning and Welcome!
On behalf of Thamini Uhai, I would like to sincerely thank you all for attending today’s event.
Dr. Koheleth Winani, National Coordinator for Safe Motherhood and acting Director of Reproductive and Child Health, I would especially like to thank you for being our Guest of Honor today, representing the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. We are delighted that you have been able to join us, in spite of your busy schedule. We trust that this is a mark of your high regard and a reflection of the good track record of collaboration and mutual respect between our organization and the government. I extend to you a warm welcome and I am sure our audience looks forward to hearing from you during today’s event.
During the course of this morning, we will share with you exciting news about the next phase of our maternal health program. We will also discuss more generally the ongoing challenge of improving neonatal and maternal health in Tanzania, and in particular the need to increase access to emergency obstetric and new born care. I hope you join me in looking forward to the contributions of the experts who have joined us today, including Ms. Rose Mlay and Prof. Andrea Pembe. I thank them for agreeing to be part of today’s event.
As you will have noticed, I have welcomed you here in the name of Thamini Uhai, not World Lung Foundation. This is central to the reason for bringing you here today.
What was formerly known as the World Lung Foundation Tanzania program, has undergone the strategically important process of registering as a Tanzanian organization.
The program becoming a Tanzanian organization is vital to our ongoing mission and sustainability. It enables full ownership of the program, its work and objectives, by Tanzanians, for Tanzanians.
Among other benefits, this offered us the opportunity to choose a distinct brand for the new organization, one that more closely reflects our core mission of improving maternal and newborn health in line with the Tanzanian government’s targets on maternal and newborn health. That brand is Thamini Uhai.
So today, I am delighted to launch Thamini Uhai, a new Tanzanian organization that will work with the government to improve maternal health and so preserve, save and improve the lives of women and newborns in Kigoma, Morogoro and Pwani regions.
Thamini Uhai, which means “Value Life” in English, is an explicit statement of our vision and mission.
Many of you may recognize this name. You are correct. We first used Thamini Uhai in 2014, as the name of our first maternal health communication campaign. This campaign encouraged Tanzanian women to recognize potential problems in pregnancy and labor and to plan to deliver at a health facility, in order to reduce the risk of maternal and newborn death. We implemented further Thamini Uhai-branded communication campaigns in 2015 and 2016.
These campaigns were highly successful in the areas where they were promoted, increasing knowledge and encouraging more women to deliver in supported health facilities. This helped our organization contribute significantly to saving the lives of pregnant women and newborns. As well as reflecting our work, the name Thamini Uhai brings a sense of urgency to stakeholders (government and donors) and the public at large, reinforcing that it is desirable and possible to save lives of mothers and newborns.
So it was highly appropriate to adopt Thamini Uhai as our new corporate identity. We believe the continuity of using this brand will assist us in our on-going efforts to mobilize communities on reproductive, maternal and newborn health issues.
Becoming a Tanzanian organization and adopting the Thamini Uhai brand indicate a break with the past and to an extent that is true. But our stakeholders can be reassured that our mission and objectives – of working with the government and other stakeholders and communicating with women, families and communities to improve maternal and newborn health – will remain the same. Our existing, highly experienced leadership team and dedicated experts remain in place and are committed to the organization going forward. Our commitment and determination remain the same and our work continues from today, much as it has done to date.
As an independent organization, Thamini Uhai will work under a board of directors which will govern our operations. I’m delighted that some members of the board have been able to join us here today, to show their support.
I’d like to stress that our journey from World Lung Foundation to Thamini Uhai is deeply rooted in strength and sustainability.
The background of this organization is a program that previously operated under the brand “World Lung Foundation”. World Lung Foundation was an international NGO that worked with the Tanzanian government since 2008 to reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality in the regions previously mentioned.
Since 2008, we can point to a track record of success. We have built an expert team and a strong network of stakeholders. We built capacity to increase the availability of and access to Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (CEmONC) services in 19 rural health centers. We have also built capacity to increase the availability of Basic Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (BEmONC) in 18 dispensaries in Kigoma.
We have innovated in the use of ICT to deliver training, mentoring and support to health workers in supported facilities. And in our country, where we have a comparative lack of qualified doctors and surgeons – especially in rural areas, we have increased capacity by empowering non-physicians. We have actively trained more than 100 assistant medical officers, nurse-midwives, and clinical officers in comprehensive emergency obstetric care or anesthesia.
We have worked to deliver communications campaigns on maternal and reproductive health issues via the media and within communities. And we have improved the referral systems in our areas of focus, so referrals to specialist facilities are quicker and more efficient.
We have substantially increased safer, health center utilization for delivery, from about 21,661 deliveries in the program-supported facilities in 2011, to 26,189 deliveries in 2015.
We have also generated data, research and proof of our operational model – all knowledge that we have shared with other individuals and organizations working in maternal health to help accelerate improvements across our country.
As an example of our strong, ongoing commitment to maternal and newborn health in the areas where we work, this year we relocated many members of our team to Kigoma region, so they are closer to a large proportion of our regional stakeholders.
It is exactly the strength of our team, of our network, of our track record of success, that has enabled us to become an independent, Tanzanian organization – Thamini Uhai.
For its part, World Lung Foundation has merged with its sister organization, The Union North America, to become Vital Strategies – an international NGO based in New York City, United States of America. That organization’s new name also is a closer reflection of its activities, which have expanded from lung health to encompass work in tobacco control, obesity prevention, road safety, environmental health and data for health, among other areas.
Vital Strategies is proud that the ultimate goal of its sustainability strategy – of launching and developing health programs until they are sufficiently robust to become independent – is perfectly illustrated in the launch today of Thamini Uhai.
Thamini Uhai will continue to work closely with Vital Strategies (as an affiliate) and Vital Strategies is proud to continue to support Thamini Uhai in our important work here in Tanzania.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vital Strategies for their help in enabling us to deliver our achievements to date, and for their ongoing support. Without their commitment to Tanzania, Thamini Uhai as we know it would not exist.
We would like to thank our donors (Bloomberg Philanthropies, H&B Agerup Foundation, Svenska PostkodStiftelsen and Blue Lantern) for their support of Thamini Uhai becoming a Tanzanian organization and for continuing to support us, enabling us to save the lives of even more pregnant women and newborns going forward. We also acknowledge the contribution of past donors to the program. Without all of their support, we would not be here.
It is our expectation that following the launch of our new organization, Thamini Uhai, we will engage with more donors to help us replicate the work we have been doing in Kigoma, Morogoro and Pwani regions in other regions of the country. This strategy will further support the government’s objective of reducing maternal and newborns deaths.
To donors who are present here, who have not worked with us before, I hope that our track record of success interests you. We would be delighted to provide you with more information and work with you in the future.
We also would like to collaborate with other NGOs in the country, whose missions and objectives are similar to our own. Together, we can accelerate progress in maternal health, again supporting the government in achieving its important objectives.
This is an exciting day for the Thamini Uhai team and we hope you share our enthusiasm for what we can achieve, collectively, going forward. The lives of mother and babies and the life opportunities of people within our communities depend upon us making a difference.
Thank you for listening and to conclude, I’d like to play a short video on the work of Thamini Uhai and what it means to our stakeholders.