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Maternity unit for Burundian refugees

In comparison to neighboring countries, Tanzania is relatively stable and peaceful, free from political unrest and conflict. However, it faces a range of severe difficulties in the field of public health. The rate of mortality during childbirth, for example, is very high, while a population growth of over three percent per year places a relentless pressure on public services, which already suffer from a lack of qualified medical personnel.

Since 2015 Tanzania’s relative stability has led to a constant stream of refugees fleeing in fear of violence from neighboring Burundi, which is suffering from unrest since the reelection of its president in contravention of the constitution. Hundreds of thousands of people have already arrived, and there appears to be no end to the movement in sight.

In the north west of Tanzania alone, more than 140,000 refugees arrived in the year after mid-2015 and 2016 – pushing the local health system to the limit of its capacity. Malteser International is working to help provide both Burundian refugees and local Tanzanians with much-needed medical care and set out to build a maternity unit which will serve Burundia refugees in the Mtendele camp and locals living in the region.

In May 2017, the maternity unit was inaugurated.

Since the beginning of the unrest in Burundi in April 2015, a refugee movement of over 269,000 people to the neighboring countries of DR Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia has taken place. At present, more than 140,000 refugees from Burundi live in the north west of Tanzania alone, and it is estimated that by the end of 2016, camp Mtendele will host more than 25,000 people.

A medical center has been rebuilt to provide these people with medical treatment. A wide range of services are available, however the center is unable to undertake operations. The nearest hospital with surgical facilities is 36 kilometers away.

Burundi and Tanzania have amongst the highest birthrates in the world – six and 5.2 children per woman respectively, while the rate of maternal death in Tanzania is around 60 times higher than in most Western European countries.

Because of the distance of the nearest major medical facility, and the difficulty of reaching it on the region’s untarred roads, complications during childbirth, which may require a caesarian section for example, can have deadly consequences for expecting mothers in the camp. This difficult situation also applies to the local Tanzanians living in the region.

  • Reduce the rate of maternal mortality amongst Burundian refugees and their host communities
  • Reduce infections occurring before and during childbirth to a minimum.
  • Construction and equipment of a maternity unit capable of providing caesarian births to Burundian refugees and locals living near to the Mtendele refugee camp in Tanzania
  • Informing the local host community about the facility to increase their acceptance
  • Installation of a rainwater collection system to provide water for clinical and personal hygiene
  • Provision of equipment and material to prevent infection

Treatment will be provided to both local people and refugees free of charge.




Our work in pictures


Iovanna Lesniewski
Email: Iovanna.lesniewski(at)malteser-international.org

Country info

Capital: Dodoma
Area: 947.300 km²
Population: c. 49.3 m

Project donor: German Federal Foreign Office

Last updated: July 2016

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