THE government’s plan to make health insurance accessible to the majority of Tanzanians is good news to all of us. We say this because access to health services leads to improved quality of life. Yet, access to health services still poses a big challenge to the majority of Tanzanians.
There are two main reasons for this. First, many people live far from health facilities and, second, even if some of them live near those health facilities not all of them may be able to access them.
This situation has been creating inequality in the provision of health services in the sense that some citizens have been finding it difficult to access the services mainly due to financial limitations.
Unemployed populations especially have been mostly unable to access health insurance services. Not only these, some employees have not also been entitled to health insurance cover.
However, with the new government plan, even individuals, who have not been covered by health insurance, can in the future have access to.
The new health insurance package, through the Improved Community Health Fund (CHF), will have a wide range of possibilities that will enable even individual people to contribute to health insurance depending on their financial capability. This is according to National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Acting Director General Mbaruku Magawa.
Access to health insurance will not only be a blessing to Tanzanians in general in terms of access to health services, but will also reduce, to a considerable extent, child and maternal mortality.
In Tanzania, the newborn mortality rate stands at 25 deaths per 1,000 births, according to Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (2015-16).
Although great strides have been made in reducing deaths among children under-five, a similar trend is yet to be seen for newborn and maternal deaths. According Unicef, Tanzania has one of the highest numbers of newborn deaths in the world: about 39,000 die annually, 17,000 of them in their first day of life. Additional 47,550 babies are stillborn and 8,000 mothers die every year during childbirth.
All this will be addressed in the near future with the insurance cover planned for the majority of Tanzanians. This is due to the fact that in the past three years the government has set up 67 health facilities compared to 77 health facilities set up since December 1961 to before three years ago.
This is according to government spokesperson and Director General of the Tanzania Information Services, Dr Hassan Abbas.
This is without mentioning the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children’s new campaign – Jiongeze Tuwavushe Salama - to reduce infant and maternal mortality scheduled for launch this week.
So, there are good signs of improving health services and quality of life of all Tanzanians that will have an impact on individual people in terms to access to health services.