Maternal Mortality in Tanzania
Since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, Tanzania has experienced a substantial reduction in child mortality rates. However, avoidable maternal mortality remains high. Women die due to pregnancy or birth-related causes at a ratio of 398 per 100,000. The main direct causes of maternal death are haemorrhages, infections, unsafe abortions, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labours. The presence of these causes is exacerbated by the prevalence of HIV and of malaria, Tanzania’s number one killer.
The Government’s Response
The Tanzanian government has made promises to its people to improve these rates – it has set out its goals to reduce maternal mortality and has signed up to international conventions and the UN Every Woman Every Child commitments. However, the government’s obligations under these conventions have not been turned into national law. National law is confusing and sometimes contradictory in this area, and centralised funding for adequate services remains low. Without clarity around women’s legal rights, it is very difficult for women in Tanzania to demand adequate maternal care. It is also difficult to hold the government accountable if it fails to provide emergency obstetric and new born care services, skilled health providers or a strong referral system.
The Lawyers Circles Work
The Lawyers Circle has made a commitment to our partner the UN Every Woman Every Child campaign to assist the Tanzanian government in the process of ratifying international conventions on maternal health rights and introducing these conventions into the national institutions and legal system by:
a) Co-ordinating the provision of over £150,000 of legal advice, analysis, negotiation and multi-stakeholder coordination. The aim of this work is to produce a series of recommendations on how to ratify the international conventions that Tanzania has signed up to and how to turn them into national law.
b) Providing accessible materials explaining maternal health rights to Tanzanian citizens.
Following this work, The Lawyers Circle hopes to produce a Maternal Health Rights toolkit which can be used by lawyers in other countries to analyse the maternal health rights legal framework.