Mama na Mtoto Symposium showcases sustainable maternal and newborn health programming

Building on local strengths and systems are among best practices to establishing sustainable and effective programming. 

On March 10th, Mama na Mtoto (MnM) held a major dissemination event, “Saving Mothers and Babies” in Mwanza, Tanzania. This symposium brought together academia, partners, district and regional leaders and policymakers to discuss successes, challenges and results from the four-year initiative. The day began with welcoming remarks from Mr. John Mongela, regional commissioner, Mwanza region, followed by presentations by district leaders and MnM team members.  

A key MnM success highlighted by many presenters was its practice of working within local government structure and policies. “Ministries of Health and government have their own policies toward maternal, newborn and child health…MnM works in line with the government policies and because of this [MnM] will continue,” said Ms. Pendo Malabeja, district executive director, Kwimba district. Malabejo also commented that the focus on strengthening health facilities was key in providing opportunities for health facility workers to gain new skills. Because of this, the community’s capacity to continue providing maternal and newborn care is increased.

Among MnM successes there are challenges and learning opportunities. Ms. Senyi Ngaga, district commissioner, Kwimba district, acknowledges that project sustainability can be a challenge with limited resources if motivation declines, “the leaders of the communities need to support Community Health Workers (CHWs) to maintain motivation,” Ngaga said. Having grown up in a rural community in Kwimba district, Ms. Ngaga understands first-hand the importance of reducing mother and baby deaths and ensuring the program continues. “The intention is to keep [MnM] going and to watch the system by monitoring the number of maternal and newborn deaths,” Ngaga said. With dedication from district leaders and motivation generated from within communities, the chances for sustainability are significantly increased.

Each of the symposium’s 100 attendees received a package including MnM results, infographics and key findings including foundational factors for a system-wide maternal and newborn health improvement. As well as the program’s best practices as determined over the four years. Symposium materials can be accessed online.

MnM began four years ago with a goal of working together with local governments and communities towards improved maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in Lake Zone, Tanzania. According to the National Road Map Strategic Plan to Improve Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child & Adolescent Health in Tanzania (2016 – 2020), the Lake Zone has some of the country’s worst MNCH indicators. Mama na Mtoto is an initiative between Tanzanian, Canadian and Ugandan partners.

Mama na Mtoto implementation was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Research was carried out with the aid of a grant from the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa initiative, a partnership of GAC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Canada’s International Development Research Institute.

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