Skip to main content

Innovative Maternal Health Program in Tanzania Expected to Impact At Least 50,000 Mothers and Children by 2016

Bloomberg Philanthropies and New Partner Announce New Funding for Life-Saving Maternal Health Program, Bringing Total Commitment to $15.5 Million.  

H&B Agerup Foundation Joins Effort

An innovative maternal health program in Tanzania funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies is projected to impact at least 50,000 mothers and their children over the next three years, Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg announced today.

An innovative maternal health program in Tanzania funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies is projected to impact at least 50,000 mothers and their children over the next three years, Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg announced today.

More than 100 local non-physician clinicians including assistant medical officers and nurse midwives in Tanzania’s most isolated areas have been trained to perform life-saving procedures including caesarean sections since the program began. The number of maternal deaths from bleeding and other complications in Tanzania have been reduced; in one district alone, maternal deaths declined by 32% in less than 2 years due to the project.

To date, more than one thousand babies have been delivered by c-section in villages where women previously had to travel several hours to receive care – often when it was too late. Women in Tanzania deliver an average of 5.5 children in their lifetime, meaning every mother’s life saved not only impacts her and her newborn but also the well-being of her other children.

Tanzania has the eighth highest number of maternal deaths in the world; a woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth almost every hour in Tanzania.

“No one should have to die giving birth,” said Michael R. Bloomberg . “Sadly, in some parts of the world, too many women die due to complications in childbirth because of inaccessible and inadequate care. We are implementing a pilot in Tanzania, a country with one of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths, where we have built a unique program that we know is already saving lives by providing emergency obstetric care in rural communities.”

“Reducing maternal deaths requires innovative approaches to delivering care in the hardest to reach places,” said Ban Ki -moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “I am encouraged by this type of partnership which, as we see in Tanzania, promises to improve the lives of women, their families and communities.”

“Through the efforts of Bloomberg Philanthropies and their partners, we are making progress in reducing maternal deaths in Tanzania which has been a high priority for my government,” H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania, said. “The results-oriented approach of this program has provided life-saving procedures to thousands of women, and we look forward to expanding this effort with the additional support of the H&B Agerup Foundation to save lives and improve the health of Tanzanians.”

“After traveling to Tanzania to see firsthand the work, progress and results of this maternal health program, we saw an opportunity to contribute to the continued development and implementation of this program,” said Helen Agerup , chair of H&B Agerup Foundation. “As an entrepreneur and medical professional, I was impressed by how this program challenged conventional medical approaches to improve mothers’ and children’s health and to save lives in some of the most remote parts of Tanzania.”

“With the contribution of H&B Agerup Foundation and the cooperation of the Tanzanian government, we can deepen this program’s impact in some of the most remote regions of the country,” Bloomberg said. “Early results show a two-fold increase in the number of health center-based deliveries, an important step towards reducing maternal death. As we monitor the progress of this ground-breaking work, we think it has the potential to become a model for other countries in Africa where maternal deaths are unacceptably high.”

Facts About Bloomberg Philanthropies Maternal Health Initiative

According to the United Nations, almost 300,000 women die globally from pregnancy and childbirth every year. For every woman that dies, another 20 suffer an injury, illness or disability, often with life-long consequences.

99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries with over half of these in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tanzania has the fifth highest number of maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Access to comprehensive emergency obstetric services can prevent most maternal deaths, yet women continue to die because there are few facilities with skilled personnel and the distances are long. The crux of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Maternal Health Program is the decentralization of life-saving health care services to the level of the village, where it is needed the most. The approach has two components:

1) Upgrading Infrastructure
Almost every community in Tanzania has access to a health care center that can provide basic health care services. The Bloomberg Maternal Health Program has upgraded these health centers by constructing operating rooms and other critical infrastructure needed for comprehensive emergency obstetric care.

2) Training healthcare workers
Most remote communities of Tanzania do not have a medical doctor, and obstetricians are almost non-existent in rural areas. Tanzania was an early adopter of a practical solution known as “task-shifting” which allows non-physician clinicians to provide health care services. Non-physician clinicians are much more likely to work in isolated communities than doctors. Recognizing this, our program trains non-physician clinicians – called Assistant Medical Officers (AMO) – to manage complicated deliveries, including caesarian sections, and nurse midwives to administer anesthesia.

Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a new investment in the program through a partnership with Geneva-based H&B Agerup Foundation over the next 3 years — bringing the total commitment to $15.5 million since late 2006. The program operates in close consultation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. It is implemented by the World Lung Foundation and is evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the CDC Foundation.

Tanzania: By The Numbers
The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 calls for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality rates by 2015. At the current rate of progress, Tanzania is not on track to reach MDG 5. Our program strives to accelerate progress and early results suggest we are headed in the right direction. We are showing that women will use life-saving medical treatments and facilities when they are easily accessible and provide high-quality care.

So far:

1. Nine extremely remote heath centers have been upgraded. Prior to the program, patients had to travel 3-4 hours to the nearest hospital. Now, emergency obstetric care is available in the community.

2. More than 100 non-physician clinicians have been trained in comprehensive emergency obstetric care or anesthesia.

3. Health center utilization for delivery care has increased substantially, from about 3,500 deliveries per year in all 9 health centers prior to the program to about 9,000 in 2011 after the intervention.

4. More than 1,000 c-sections have been performed.

5. The Ulanga district, one of 7 districts where the program is operating, saw a 32% decline in maternal deaths after the program was implemented.

6. Conservative projections show that at least 50,000 women and children will be impacted by our work.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies works primarily to advance five areas globally: the Arts, Education, the Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. In 2011, $330 million was distributed. For more information please go to Follow us on Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.