2015 is a big year for Every Mother Counts as it marks our fifth birthday.
Five years ago, the documentary film, NO WOMAN, NO CRY, was released to address and document maternal health challenges around the world. With an inspired audience eager to become part of a movement to end preventable maternal deaths, Every Mother Counts was born with a goal to further raise awareness, and encourage everyday people to be part of the solutions.
To commemorate our fifth year, Every Mother Counts will be re-visiting and/or highlighting the countries featured in the film — Tanzania, Guatemala, Bangladesh, and United States. In doing so, we will explore the current state of maternal health in these countries, including advancements that have been made, stories from mothers and healthcare providers, and learn about what lies ahead in ensuring that every mother who needs access to maternal health care receives it.
As we enter this fifth year with a commitment to continue our work, we’re heading back to Tanzania, where it all began.
While filming in Tanzania for NO WOMAN, NO CRY, we documented some of the barriers that millions of girls and women living in Sub-Saharan Africa face when trying to access critical maternal healthcare.
We saw first hand that for women living in countries like Tanzania, especially in rural areas, distance was an enormous barrier to reaching healthcare of any kind. In fact, the minimum distance a pregnant woman had to travel on foot for prenatal care was 5 kilometers, with the average distance to reach emergency obstetric care being 35 kilometers, and oftentimes much more.
Because of this, we’re off to Tanzania to visit the Oldonyo Sambu Dispensary and the midwives and mothers featured in NO WOMAN, NO CRY. We will also visit new clinics and providers we will be supporting going forward.
To kick off this return visit, we will be running the Kilimanjaro Half Marathon on March 1 to raise awareness and funds that will break down the distance barrier and allow more women to access the care they need.
Learn more about maternal health conditions in Tanzania below, and join us on this journey.
The United Republic of Tanzania is beautiful. Located in the African Great Lakes region in East Africa, it’s home to the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater and Wildlife Conservation Area, Mt. Kilimanjaro, a live volcano, and miles of beaches. It’s one of the world’s poorest economies in terms of per capita income, but among the fastest growing economies due to increased gold production and tourism. Almost 50 million people live in Tanzania and approximately 75 to 80 percent of them work in agriculture, farming, herding and producing, among other commodities, coffee, tea, cotton, pyrethrum (an insecticide made from chrysanthemums), cashews, tobacco, cattle, sheep, and goats. It’s a young population with a median age of only 17 years old. Education is provided for free for Tanzania children who can access it and approximately 75% of Tanzanian boys and 60% of girls over the age of 15 can read and write in Kiswahili (Swahili), their national language, or in English or Arabic.
Tanzanians face significant health challenges including high HIV/AIDS rates. Because approximately 88 percent of the population lack access to improved sanitation facilities and only about half have improved water facilities, they suffer high rates of water born illnesses like bacterial diarrhea, Hepatitis A and Typhoid fever. They also deal with high rates of malaria and because so many citizens live in poverty, high rates of malnutrition.
Maternal Health Challenges
There have been some maternal health improvements since we filmed NWNC in Tanzania but it remains one of the most dangerous places on earth for a woman to become a mother. To date, it’s estimated that 454 maternal deaths occur for every 100,000 live births. The average age for a woman to become a first-time mother is 19 years old, and she’ll probably go on to have five children. The odds that she’ll have a child die in infancy are high considering about 44 infants die for every 1000 live births. Contraception use stands at about 34 percent, in large part because women either can’t reach healthcare facilities, can’t afford it, aren’t allowed to use it by their husbands or families or, they don’t know enough about it.
There has been some success in improving health facilities and training for traditional birth attendants, midwives and doctors, yet in most regions of Tanzania, there’s only one doctor for every 100,000 citizens. There are very few well-equipped healthcare facilities and many are inaccessible for rural women. With no access to transportation, poor roads and severely limited resources, almost half of Tanzanian mothers deliver at home and only 46 percent are assisted by a trained attendant, midwife or doctor.
The leading causes of maternal health complications and death are hemorrhage, infection, prolonged and obstructed labor, preeclampsia and high blood pressure and unsafe abortions. Other deaths are related to issues we mentioned above, like HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and malaria, which weaken women’s bodies to the point where pregnancy can be dangerous.