by Victoria Ebin, news media coordinator, PRB
PRB organized a five-day study tour on reproductive health for Tanzanian journalists in January. Nine journalists selected for the tour traveled by bus from Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean to Arusha in the north, stopping along the way to visit clinics, NGOs, and hospitals specializing in reproductive health.
The journalists covered hundreds of dusty miles in a colorfully decorated bus with bright orange flames painted on the windows. Under the vigilant eye of consultant facilitator Halima Shariff, who kept participants and bus driver alike on schedule, the study tour followed a tightly packed program. The visits highlighted the challenges of stocking clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies around the country with contraceptives. The tour also looked at successful partnerships between the public and private sectors to improve reproductive health and equity among the wealthy and the poor to health care.
At the DELIVER project, a USAID-funded project of John Snow Inc., Tim Rosche talked about the challenges of distributing contraceptives throughout the country so that hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies had the supplies they needed. A key element in these logistical puzzles, he told the reporters, is a strong collaboration with the Ministry of Health, international donors, and NGOs. A weakness in Tanzania’s current strategy, he added, is the absence of a strong voice in the ministry calling for the increased funding necessary to meet the country’s needs.
The final visit of the trip was to the Selian Lutheran Hospital outside Arusha, a 120-bed medical center that mainly serves a Maasai population. In 2002, it became the first hospital in the area to repair obstetric fistula, a significant problem in the region caused in part by the Maasai’s desire for large families and women’s young age at marriage. The journalists also learned that contraceptives are often out of stock, especially the long-acting methods the local women prefer. The journalists met with clients at the hospital’s family planning clinic, where, as one journalist said, it was the first time he had heard a woman express her desire to limit the number of children she would have.
After the tour, several journalists noted it was the first time they had ever been able to interview medical personnel and their clients. All of the journalists who participated are members of the Association of Journalists against AIDS in Tanzania, which recently added a reproductive health section to its activities and helped organize the tour.