The challenge Ai faced when “cutting the diamond” on the MamaYe campaign was this: how to deepen the engagement of African men and women in this issue? How to raise the engagement of the African public, and thereby to raise expectations of survival of both mothers and newborns?
We were convinced that only when the African public in the countries with highest mortality rates, is full engaged, and there is widespread expectation that women and newborns must survive and thrive after childbirth – only then will attitudes, policies and practices change, and maternal mortality rates in African countries decline. If African politicians and policy makers are to be held to account for the survival of mothers and newborns – then public expectations must rise too. But how to engage the public? There are several answers to this question, but the one that required the most direct engagement, sacrifice and voluntary activity was: blood donation.
Blood deficits contribute to around 34% of maternal deaths and near misses in Africa. However, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest quantity of blood donated for transfusion per person in the world.
The Tanzanian MamaYe campaign, working with the National Blood Transfusion Service (NTBS), Arusha regional Hospital, and the Red Cross,was the first to mount a major blood recruitment and donation campaign, in January, 2013. Tanzanian national estimates based on WHO data project that 80% of blood donated is used for maternal and paediatric patients. Post-partum haemorrhage (bleeding) is acknowledged as the leading cause of maternal mortality accounting for between one in three to one in five of all maternal deaths in Tanzania. Furthermore, there is a critical shortage of blood supplies in Tanzania’s hospitals – with an estimated one-third only of the required 450,000 blood units collected every year.
The campaign launch in Arusha was a great success. After MamaYe Tanzania had publicised the blood donation event, with radio interviews, posters and banners, more than 1,000 donors responded to the appeal – three times more than the Tanzanian Blood Donation Service was accustomed to. Since then blood donation appeals have succeeded in all five countries – engaging more and more people in the survival of mothers and newborns in their country.