Stephanie Mooney, Trusts and Foundations Officer at Amref Health Africa UK, reports back on her visit to an ambitious project that aims to improve the health of mothers, children and young people across Simiyu region.
We drove around four hours from Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria to reach the centre of Simiyu region; Bariadi town. It’s a small and bustling town, which is surrounded by villages and remote health centres which can only be reached by dirt tracks.
I was there to visit Uzazi Uzima ("safe deliveries" in Kiswahili), a four-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada
to improve the health of mothers, children and young people across Simiyu. A key focus of the project is to promote local health services to the community and educate adults and young people on sexual and reproductive health. In the NGO world we hear a lot about ‘community mobilisation’ but in Simiyu I was able to see what it really means in practice.
The Uzazi Uzima ‘Champions League’
Two enthusiastic teachers from a local Secondary School have organised a football league for 12 teams from across Simiyu. Kitted out in ‘Uzazi Uzima’ football shirts the players learn from the teachers and Amref staff about contraception, family planning and other health services.
The weekly games attract crowds of up to 400 people who can also hear health messages before and after the games. It’s a fantastic way to engage the community, particularly men who have fewer targeted health services than women.
Road Show Theatrics
Another innovative way the project team are reaching the community is through a weekly road show in towns across Simiyu. When I visited the road show had stopped in Dutwa town for a busy market day. The event drew huge crowds with dancers and performers.
Amref used the opportunity to promote health messages and encourage members of the crowd to ask questions of local government and health officials, on-hand on the day.
The team came up with a rallying cry: "Uzazi Uzima - Mpango Mzima" which means "Safe Deliveries - The Real Deal" in Swahili. A new slogan for our community activism across Simiyu.
The Uzazi Uzima project is a partnership among Amref Health Africa and Marie Stopes, with Deloitte as a service partner, which is focused on reducing maternal mortality and morbidity rates in Tanzania. With support of $10.2 million from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada (93% of the total project budget), this four-year project aims to directly reach 348,567 women and adolescent girls and 334,515 men and adolescent boys in six district councils in the region of Simiyu.