Why Tanzania must digitize essential health services

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The health sector in Tanzania holds a very crucial position in the welfare of the fast-growing economy in East Africa, but also, it requires robust improvements to serve millions of people seamlessly.

That is why, the 2019 Health Supply Chain Summit, taking place in commercial pulse—Dar es Salaam (from 15th to 17th of October), casts to the front, important discussions pertaining health sector’s essential development, including, creation of a health data system for effective control and supply of medicine and medical equipment over space and time.

The Tanzania Health Supply Chain Summit (THSCS) provides an opportunity for various supply chain key players to convene and share lessons learned, successes, challenges and best practices to improve health commodities supply chains in Tanzania.

The summit serves as a platform to positively influence practices and behaviors among government supply chain actors and stakeholders.

In that context, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, expressed its intentions to the summit via the Deputy Minister of Health, and also summit’s keynote speaker Dr Faustine Ndugulile, who highlighted yesterday, on the growing demand of improving health stocking systems, that are cost-effective, digital and work seamlessly, to enhance services in the sector.

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The summit is themed “Data-Driven Innovations” and consequently, calls out to all health stakeholders to contribute towards yielding robust innovations in the sector, which is now demanding actual strategies that go beyond conventional approaches.

According to a report by The Citizen, Deputy Minister emphasized the vitality of digital systems that can effectively guide people on the ground towards, outbreak preparedness and managing diseases effectively.

“When there was a dengue outbreak, sending testing kits was challenging, but if there was a system, this would not be a problem. “I am not saying the government is not doing well, in fact, we are doing well in prevention of outbreaks and supply of medicines, but we can do better,” He added

Tanzania is working closely to amend the health sector with its strategic development partners. Just recently, Tanzania received a $ 11.3 million grant from Germany (GIZ).

The three-year period grant comes to serve on vital angles (information systems, insurance services, family planning, and maternal health) within the sector, which has just recorded a negative growth rate of 2.1 percent in the first quarter compared to 17.4 percent in the corresponding quarter in 2018.

The grants present a viable opportunity to meliorate, health sector information systems. In that respective context, the ministry has successfully introduced the Digital health Investment Recommendations Roadmap Programme, whereas March 2018, 1303 health centers in Tanzania are integrated with digital health services.

Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) statistics, show internet penetration is climbing up from 40 per cent in 2017 to 43 per cent in 2018, while number of users going live via mobile phones hitting over 23 million.  So, the normalcy of digital health services is not alien in Tanzania, for a decent start necessary conducive environments exist to realize the potential.

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According to Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there are almost 55 million people in the country, more than 89 million by 2035 and World Bank population projections, place Tanzania population at 138 million by 2050.

These numbers mean high-end strategies are inevitable to keep the human capital healthy enough to realize Tanzania’s ambitions. So far, per the NBS report, Tanzania recorded a negative growth rate of 2.1 percent in the first quarter compared to 17.4 percent in the corresponding quarter in 2018.

Despite existing challenges in the sector, the main issue raised during the summit is yet another feasible option to Tanzania, whose budgetary plans strive to prove billions, whereas the ministry has anticipated collecting more than $ 107 million in the fiscal year 2019/2020. On the same note, more than $ 417 million is the designated budget for the sector within 2019/2020.  Additionally, the budget for purchasing medicine has increased from $ 13 million to over $ 117.6 million.

Digitization of services in Tanzania is taking new stages in urban centers, major cities such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Arusha, now have innovation hubs and startup companies venturing into high-end digital services, it is with no doubt that, digitizing essential spheres within the sector won’t be hard at all.

Padili Mikomangwa is an environmentalist based in Tanzania. . He is passionate about helping communities be aware of critical issues cutting across, environmental economics and natural resources management. He holds a bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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