Half of Women Still Give Birth Alone or Without Skilled Health Care in Tanzania -- But We Can Change That!

On International Day of the Midwife on May 5, our short film "What I Want Is Simple", is airing on national television and radio in Tanzania.
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On International Day of the Midwife on May 5, our short film "What I Want Is Simple", is airing on national television and radio in Tanzania.

For every 100,000 women who give birth in my country, Tanzania, almost 800 die (compared to 24 in USA ). This is an absolute scandal, as almost all of these deaths could be prevented if women had access to skilled health workers.

Yet there is a dire shortage of health workers with midwifery skills in my country, and half of women still give birth with no one to help them except neighbours or relatives. What's more, the numbers of nurses trained in midwifery is shrinking with some training schools reporting less than 25 students in classes which used to have 300.

The White Ribbon Alliance in Tanzania (WRATZ) is working hard to reduce maternal mortality and to bring the issue of the shortage of midwives to the forefront of the political agenda. As part of this work, WRATZ is working to promote midwifery as a profession and to improve the status and working conditions of midwives. This includes working to improve the public perception of midwives and the need for improved working conditions. An example of these efforts is this short film.


Recently, with the financial support of the Health Policy Project, WRATZ organized a public hearing on this issue. Those in the audience were asked if they would choose nursing as a career for their children. Of the one thousand people in attendance, only thirteen raised their hands in approval, which led to an in-depth discussion on the subject. Among other findings, it was revealed that students were hesitant to apply to midwifery schools due to the bad timing of acceptance letters. They had to make an enrolment decision for all the other schools a long time before the midwifery schools finalized their acceptance process.

Armed with this knowledge, civil society can now advocate with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training of Tanzania for the necessary changes and timing adjustments to be made so that more students will be encouraged to join the depleting cadre of midwives.

This is an example of one of the ways we are working to save the lives of women and babies. It is estimated that of the 1000 women and 8500 babies who die every day around the world, a third could be saved if they had access to skilled health care.

We do know what to do and how to save women's lives; we just need the investment and political commitment to do it, for every woman, no matter where she lives.

The White Ribbon Alliance is pushing hard to make this happen. Please visit our site to learn more and share this blog post with friends; together we can make needless deaths in childbirth a thing of the past.

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