Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman
Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

Blog post by Erwin Telemans CEO, CCBRT

For women in Tanzania, accessing quality, maternal healthcare services is difficult. Affording the journey to a hospital, and paying for treatment, is impossible for many women. Poverty contributes to an elevated risk of acquiring a disability or injury during labor. It’s a bleak picture. Women who do develop a disability face many more obstacles, including severe social stigma, which leaves women isolated and hopeless. Cultural conventions often render these women voiceless to make decisions for their health, or the health of their unborn child.

For the past nine years, I have been the CEO of Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT), a Tanzanian NGO represented in the USA by Kupona Foundation, our 501(c)(3) non-profit. With the support of our donors and partners, CCBRT and Kupona work to actualize a vision of a Tanzania where people have access to quality disability services as well as safe maternal and newborn healthcare. I am honored to introduce our organizations to this dedicated network of advocates for the empowerment of women and girls around the world.

Inspired by Emma Watson’s gripping address to the United Nations this September, I became the 20th man in Tanzania to pledge support for UN Women’s ‘He for She’ campaign. He for She’ represents everything CCBRT and Kupona embody. We believe that every individual deserves equal access to healthcare, education, and employment, enabling them to fulfill their potential. Ms.Watson’s message resonated with our own journey, particularly our efforts to challenge the status quo for Tanzanian women.

Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman
Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

Every year in Tanzania, up to 3,000 women will develop obstetric fistula, a childbirth related injury that leads to chronic incontinence¹.

Why is obstetric fistula so devastating for women?

  • It is completely unnecessary.
  • It often results in abandonment by families and friends.
  • It causes incontinence.
  • In most cases it results in the loss of a baby.

At CCBRT and Kupona, we are doing everything we can to ensure that these women have access to the life changing treatment they need. As our friends at Global Citizen said recently, “There should be absolutely no reason why this is still a thing.” We’re using mobile technology to ensure that even the poorest woman can receive treatment by facilitating their transportation to the hospital. This video describes our TransportMyPatient program. Thanks to the generous support of our donors and partners, we provide treatment, food, and accommodation for fistula patients free of charge.

Treating existing cases of fistula will help reduce the backlog of women living without access to this dignity-restoring corrective surgery, but it will not solve the problem. The best way to prevent impairments like fistula is by increasing access to safe, quality maternal and newborn healthcare (MNCH). This is why CCBRT and Kupona are working in close partnership with the Government of Tanzania to make motherhood safe in Tanzania. This video introduces our MNCH program. Tanzania is one of the top 10 contributors to maternal death in the world². In Dar es Salaam, where we focus our efforts, the number of maternal and newborn deaths is alarming, despite the fact that 90% of births take place in a health facility³.

Our message is simple: all babies deserve the best chance to survive their first days, and every mother deserves to greet her newborn child.

Integrated throughout all of our maternal and newborn healthcare services is an effort to include men in the process. He for She. Maternal healthcare, pregnancy, and the risks that come with childbirth, are not solely women’s issues.

It is impossible to introduce CCBRT and Kupona Foundation in a single post. Our work covers a comprehensive spectrum of service delivery, capacity building, health system strengthening, advocacy, and health education in both the disability and maternal and newborn healthcare arenas. If you stay tuned to Girls’ Globe we will share more of our story, and update you with new developments from Tanzania. Working together with partners, supporters, and advocates like Girls’ Globe, we can change the status quo in Tanzania to ensure that motherhood and childbirth is a cause for celebration, not a tragedy.

Follow @CCBRTTanzania and @KuponaFdn on Twitter to hear more about our 20th anniversary plans and to learn how you can show your support! #CCeleBRaTe20

¹ Bangser M. Obstetric fistula and stigma. The Lancet. 2006

² ‘Trends in maternal mortality 1990-2010’, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank Estimates, 2012

³ 2010 Demographic and Health Survey,National Bureau of Statistics, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. April 2011

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