Tanzania needs laws that will hold accountable responsible parties in case a woman or an infant dies out of negligence in a bid to significantly reduce maternal and newborn deaths.
Care International Project Manager, Mr David Lyamuya, said this in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday while speaking in a consultative meeting with a group of religious leaders on a Bill to Enact Safe Motherhood Law 2012.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has put forth several policies aiming at protecting the rights of mothers and newborns, including giving them the right to access appropriate services to save their lives, but since these policies are not laws some people have breached them and went away with it,” he said.
Mr Lyamuya said that unlike the law, where the offended part can sue the offender, a policy does not guarantee legal measures against any person who violates.
“Despite the fact that the government has come up with a policy which stipulates that expectant mothers and all under-five children are supposed to get free services, so many newborns and women keep on dying for lack of services at health centres and there is no law defending them,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Lyamuya gave an example of statistics indicating that over 90 per cent of expectant mothers attend clinic, whereas only 50 per cent of them deliver under the care of qualified health workers, which is an indication that the community is not comfortable with the services.
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRATZ) Country Coordinator, Ms Rose Mlay, called on religious leaders to support the Bill as it was tailored on the basis of ensuring the welfare of the society which is a vital component in all religions.”We want to see women getting full protection, from childhood to adulthood and ensure that the right to survival for both mother and newborn is legally stipulated,” she said.
She further noted that some people at family and health centre levels have on many occasions caused loss of lives of newborns and or mothers, but the offended parties are not provided with legal right to sue the offenders.Earlier, the Care International Director of Programmes, Ms Aba Williams, hinted on the number of women dying in the course of delivery which stands at 454 per 100,000 live births, saying that it was unreasonably high.
She noted that to have the deaths reduced to cohere with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of 193/100,000 there is need to have a law in place to push.The MDGs’ health target includes reducing maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality from 578 to 193/100000, 32 to 19/1000 and 112 to 54/1000 live births respectively by 2015.
The bill is said to have been necessitated by many gaps found in various existing laws such as the Law of Marriage Act of 1971 which encourages early marriages on the part of girls, the Education Act of 1978 which does not include protection measures for girls who get pregnant while in school.
Other laws include, The Law of the Child Act of 2009 which lacks effective enforcement because Tanzania does not have a children’s court which is user friendly for adolescent girls and boys and at the same time the Prisoners Act of 1967 is silent with regard to Maternal Sexual and Reproductive Health (MSRH) of female prisoners.
Also, the Public Health Act of 2009 does not explicitly provide for the enforcement of the right to health such as the right to be treated well by a professional medical officer, the rights to medication and care.
The Care International Technical Coordinator, Governance and Advocacy, Ms Rachael Boma, noted that if all goes well the Bill would be presented in the National Assembly for the first reading in September, this year, to kick-start the process of enacting the law.
By ABDULWAKIL SAIBOKO, Tanzania Daily News