Improving Maternal Health in Tanzania

Three critical delays cause several millions of mothers and infants to die in Africa each year—delays in seeking medical care, delays due to inadequate transportation, and delays because health centers are under equipped. 

Tanzania, in particular, has maternal mortality rates that are extremely high. According to recent estimates, women in Tanzania have a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth of 1 in 38, which is more than 60 times the figures in the USA.  The maternal mortality ratio in the country is 460 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.    

And in Tanzania, like much of Africa, women in rural areas are much more likely than their urban counterparts to have complicated deliveries that go unaided. In too many instances, the result is a needless loss of life for the mother, the infant, or both. 

The Solution – The WLF Model

The maternal health project is a joint effort between the Tanzanian government, World Lung Foundation (WLF) as implementers, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has funded this effort for the past seven years. New donors include the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), H B Agerup Foundation and Merck & Co.

The model being implemented in Tanzania takes a comprehensive approach – it has contributed bricks and mortar to build and renovate facilities to enable adequate infrastructure at rural health centers; it continues to train non-doctor health workers to learn how to do surgeries and carry out complicated deliveries; and works closely with the government to see to it that there are adequate and appropriate tools for patient care. The result is that life-saving skills are available at local health centers in rural regions.


To date, the project has upgraded and equipped 12 health centers and four district hospitals to provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care, including cesarean sections, to surrounding, rural communities.  Continuous project monitoring and support is on-going in Kigoma, Morogoro and Pwani regions.  

The Way Forward

The project’s focus is now on quality improvement of emergency services and facilities as well as on medical education and support supervision for staff, with a focus on staff retention and quality of care. With the help of e-learning tools, the health professionals working in WLF supported health facilities in very remote areas will soon be able to connect with their colleagues as well as with obstetrician/gynecologist specialists around the country for continuing medical training and clinical discussions which will improve service delivery.