2 October 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Maternal Health in United Republic of Tanzania

 


New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg announced at Headquarters today a new investment in an innovative maternal health programme in the United Republic of Tanzania, saying it would impact at least 50,000 women and their children over the next three years.


At a news conference, Mr. Bloomberg said the programme focused on upgrading rural health facilities and training non-physicians, pointing out that despite progress in many areas of the Millennium Development Goals, the maternal-mortality target had lagged far behind.  The United Republic of Tanzania’s maternal death rate was so high that there was an enormous gap between it and that of the United States, he added.


The new investment pledged jointly by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the H&B Agerup Foundation, would bring the total commitment to $15.5 million since the programme’s launch in 2006, said Mr. Bloomberg.  Accompanying the Mayor were United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania and Helen Agerup, Chair of the partner institution.


“These three people are leading advocates in women’s and children’s health,” said Mr. Ban, stressing the importance of advancing concrete partnerships on the ground as almost 300,000 women died around the globe from pregnancy and childbirth every year.  The partnership between those three leaders alone had helped cut maternal deaths in the Kigoma, Morogoro and Pwani regions by roughly one third over two years, he said, noting that the national maternal mortality rate had been almost halved.  “ Tanzania is an example of how, by investing in the health of women and children, we can achieve great results for us all.”


President Kikwete, expressing appreciation for the new $8 million investment, said maternal health was an issue “very close to my heart” and had become a priority of Government policy.  Much had been done, and would continue to be done in reducing maternal deaths in the country and on the African continent, by the Government, multilateral institutions, private organizations and persons of good will, such as Mayor Bloomberg and Ms. Agerup, but there remained a need to scale up efforts because too many mothers and children were still dying or at risk of losing their lives.


He went on to say that 454 women per 100,000 childbirths had died in 2011, compared with 500 in sub-Saharan Africa and 210 globally.  Infant mortality was 51 per 1,000 in the United Republic of Tanzania, 69 in sub-Saharan Africa and 7 globally.  These numbers “speak volumes” of the need for more intervention, the President said, adding: “It’s not fair for women to die by giving birth to another human being.”  Despite the availability of financial resources, technical skills and technology, there was a need to muster the necessary political will, said President Kikwete.


The programme funded by Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthropic institution complemented his own Government’s plan in rural areas, he continued, pointing out that it had trained more than 100 non-physicians to perform life-saving procedures, including caesarean sections.  In the Ulanga District, maternal deaths had fallen by 32 per cent in just two years, he noted.


Mayor Bloomberg pointed out that Millennium Development Goal 5 called for a 75 per cent reduction in maternal-mortality rates by 2015, and the United Republic of Tanzania was not on track to meet that target.  However, he commended the country’s efforts in that regard, saying he realized how much of a difference honest, hard-working leadership could make.  As a result, the use of health centres had risen from about 3,500 deliveries a year prior to the programme to about 9,000 in 2011, he said, expressing hope that the scheme would be replicated at the national level.


Ms. Agerup said she had travelled to the United Republic of Tanzania to see the programme first-hand before making a financial commitment, and had become convinced that it was unique, necessary and challenged the conventional approach.  Not only had it produced results on the ground, it had the potential to have an impact on other African nations, she said.


Asked how much more funding would be needed to meet the maternal health-related Millennium Development Goal, President Kikwete said “we need more money for sure”, citing such challenges as inadequate facilities, long-distance travel and a shortage of skilled personnel.  The Government aimed to build and refurbish facilities and to lower the physician-to-patient ratio.


Mayor Bloomberg added that he intended to make a model of the programme for replication in other areas.  “Our donations are just a beginning,” he said.


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For information media • not an official record