- U.S.$304.93 million will go to supportive programmes in sustainable rural water and sanitation
- 300 million US dollars is the International Development Association (IDA) concessional loan
- Another US$ 25 million is also part of the grant money, but this time from the Global Financing Facility for Women Children, and Adolescents Multi-Donor Trust Fund.
Tanzania is to receive U.S.$ 550 million in a concessional loan to improve its Maternal and Child Health programme.
The World Bank loan comes along with a side package of U.S.$ 29.93 million in grant money, the government has reported.
Finance Minister, Hon. Mwigulu Nchemba issued a statement to media specifying the funds’ planned disbursement as follows: U.S.$304.93 million will go to supportive programmes in sustainable rural water and sanitation and U.S.$275 million will go directly to maternal and child health programme.
Of this money, 300 million US dollars is the International Development Association (IDA) concessional loan and the 4.93 million US dollars is a grant from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP).
Another US$ 25 million is also part of the grant money, but this time from the Global Financing Facility for Women Children, and Adolescents Multi-Donor Trust Fund.
Supporting maternal healthcare in Zanzibar
Even though the exact amount to be disbursed to Zanzibar for its maternal and child health care programmes was not made public, the island will be a beneficiary of the loan and grant money.
Present at the signing event, a representative from Zanzibar’s Ministry of Health Director General, Dr. Amour Mohammed Suleiman shed some light on the health conditions on the island; “…statistics show that during the year 2021, the number of maternal deaths in Zanzibar was more than 75 and the deaths of infants were more than 550.”
The island’s government representative further painted a promising picture of the maternal health state of Zanzibar saying as of last year, maternal deaths decreased to between 55 and 60 and child deaths decreased to between 425 and 450.
As did the World Bank Representative, the Zanzibar government official admitted that these deaths are unnecessary since they are preventable; “Zanzibar is still working to achieve the goal of not having such deaths because most of them are preventable,” he said.
Meanwhile, back on the Mainland, where food prices are also running wild, Finance Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said the US$ 500 million in loan and grant money is part of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s efforts in implementing the administration’s imperative for an industrial economy.
The move is a continuation of the country’s Third National Five-Year Development Plan 2021/22-2025/26 and Zanzibar Vision 2050, the minister detailed.
“WB’s financial terms are economically viable, where the interest rate is 0.75 and the grace period is long with a repayment period of 30 to 40 years, unlike other commercial loans which give a grace period of hardly two years and the repayment period does not exceed 20 years,” Finance Minister Dr. Nchemba defended the loan.
The minister said Tanzania’s national debt is well in check, that 73 percent of the national debt is multilateral, sustainable, and allows for economic development.
Notably, between 2000 and 2019, life expectancy in Tanzania increased from 51 to 65 years, and under-five mortality and infant mortality. This achievement, according to the Tanzania World Bank Country Director, Mr. Nathan Belete, is all thanks to such WorldBank loans.
“Tanzania has made important progress in improving health outcomes over the past two decades…incidences of vaccine-preventable diseases like diarrheal diseases, malaria, and HIV/AIDS have also dropped significantly,” he said.
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Tanzania Marriage Act still allows underage marriage
Nonetheless, the Tanzania World Bank Country Director admitted that despite the progress challenges remain and new ones have emerged.
That sad truth is, admitted Mr. Belete, “…communicable diseases continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality and non-communicable diseases are increasing …neonatal and maternal mortality rates are still very high.”
In his explanation as to why these manageable health issues remain persistent, the World Bank Tanzania Country representative said low quality of care, shortages and inequitable distribution of the health workforce, low functionality of health infrastructure, and a weak referral system need to be addressed to significantly improve the health sector.
However, he reassured stakeholders that; “The new Maternal and Child Health Investment Programme will help the country to improve the quality of essential healthcare services and scale up their delivery, with a focus on maternal and child health.”
While Tanzania is moving to improve its maternal and child health care, child delivery by girls below the age of 18 remains part of the problem. The law in Tanzania continues to allow the marriage of underage girls as young as 14 with the concession of a parent.
Efforts to change the law are underway but the country’s parliament is yet to Table a Bill to that end.
On 8 July 2016, the High Court of Tanzania ruled that Sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act were unconstitutional and directed the government to change the law within one year so that the minimum age of marriage for girls is 18 years the same as that for Tanzanian boys.
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In this groundbreaking ruling in the Rebeca Z. Gyumi v. Attorney General case, the High Court’s ruling reads:
“…we have no option but to find that the two provisions i.e. sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, Cap 29 RE 2002 are unconstitutional to the extent explained herein above. Consequently, exercising the powers vested in this court by Articles 30(5) and 13(2) of the Constitution and the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act respectively, we direct the Government through the Attorney General within a period of one (1) year from the date of this order to correct the complained anomalies within the provisions of section 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act and in lieu thereof put 18 years as the eligible age for marriage in respect of both boys and girls.”
The government did not agree with the ruling and appealed. Three years later the Court of Appeal denied the Attorney General’s appeal in 2019. Now, four years down the road, Tanzania is yet to Table a Bill to change the minimum marriage age despite the dangers young girls face in early pregnancies and delivery.
Underage girls’ delivery is risky as is their ability to care for the infant if the delivery is successful that is. This situation worsens Tanzania’s state of maternal and child healthcare, for which the nation is being funded to improve.
While the country awaits for the law to be enacted, maternal and child health care cannot be put on hold; the World Bank loan and international organization grants will go a long way to help save women in delivery rooms, underage or not.