Tanzania: NGOs hailed over motherhood bill

9 FEBRUARY 2012 - PMNCH members Care International and White Ribbon Alliance have drafted a safe motherhood bill, in collaboration with the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association, aimed at addressing critical challenges facing Tanzanian mothers, adolescent girls men and boys in accessing reproductive health services.

Speaking at a stakeholders meeting on Wednesday on Zero Draft Bill to Enact the Safe Motherhood Law (2012), local healthworkers voiced their support for the draft legislation.

"There are several issues that will be solved with the Safe Motherhood Act in place, we will be assured of all necessary equipment for safe delivery and thus we will be able to reduce maternal and child mortality," said the Regional Nursing Officer, Ms Anatolia Mkondo.

Ms Mkondo noted that the draft has come at a critical moment for Tanzania; maternal mortality in the country has reached 454 for every 100,000 live births and newborn deaths have reached 26 for every 1000 live births.

According to her, availability of equipment necessary for delivery and postnatal care services remains a critical challenge especially in the public health centres and hospitals.

The Regional Medical Officer (RMO), Dr Godfery Mtey noted that the bill was vital but called on the brains behind the draft to take caution not to contradict the existing laws.

"There are laws which are already in place that address some of the issues related to safe motherhood such as the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2007 from where you can borrow a leaf," he advised the presenters. The RMO was of the view that the issue of seeking consent from the couples before making any medical decision related to reproductive health should be emphasized in the draft.

However, some doctors, nurses and members from civil society organizations who were present at the meeting opposed this view saying that mothers should have freedom to make decisions on their own because they are the ones who enter labour rooms. "Women should be given freedom to choose whether they want to have more kids or not, this is important especially for those who have given birth to so many children," said the White Ribbon Alliance Country Coordinator, Ms Rose Mlay.

Presenting the summary of the draft, the Care International Project Officer, Mr Kanuth Dimoso noted that the bill intended to protect the rights of mothers and adolescents in accessing reproductive health services. The move stems from another stakeholders' meeting held in June, last year and attended by the Parliamentarians for Safe Motherhood Group (PSMG) which underscored the need to formulate a law that would protect pregnant women from maternal mortality and infant mortality.