Tanzania reduces infant mortality

Deaths of children over one month on the decline

Tanzania has reduced child mortality rates from 161 per 1,000 in 1990 to 54 per 1,000 today, reaching one of its Millennium Development Goals, according to research published in The Lancet Global Health.

Tanzania has done better than many of its neighbouring countries in Sub Sahara Africa according to the report. Most of the decline in infant mortality has been made after the first month of life.

Babies in this age group have been saved by vaccines, anti-malarial and anti HIV/AIDs programmes, all of them relatively well funded programmes. However the same progress has not been made to prevent still births and deaths in the first month of life.

New-born deaths account for 40 per cent of all child deaths nationally and the rate of decline has been half that for children after the first month of life.

Nor has there been equal improvement in rural areas particularly in the west and around the lakes, largely because of the lack of health-care facilities, mid-wives and family planning services.

The number of mid-wives per 10,000 people in Kilimanjaro and Arusha is 13 per 10,000 people but in some areas of Manyara it is only 1 per 10,000. The recommended level is 23 per 10,000.

One of the recent campaigns to improve antenatal care, called Wazazi Nipendeni (Parents Love Me in Swahili), uses health care and modern telecommunication systems to put pregnant women in touch with antenatal care facilities. Launched in 2012 it now has 125,000 registered users and five million text messages have been sent to women looking for pregnancy and safe motherhood advice.