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New Funding to Deliver Distance Training and Clinical Support for Maternal Health Workers in Rural Tanzania

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program Donates nearly $500,000 for Technology That Will Connect Experts to Obstetric Emergencies in Rural Areas

(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and New York, USA) – World Lung Foundation (WLF) has been awarded $488,500 from Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, through its “Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program”, to implement new technology for health workers involved in emergency obstetric care in rural Tanzania. The funding will improve information sharing from clinical audits and create a distance-learning platform that will boost access to expertise in other parts of the country. Conservative estimates indicate the initiative will positively impact at least 50,000 mothers and their children over the next three years.

The grant will fund a first-of-its-kind project in Tanzania, using technology to improve communication and support health workers providing good quality obstetric care in remote areas. Currently, isolated health workers have few options for getting support or supervision when managing very difficult cases and have few opportunities to expand their clinical knowledge.

The grant will fund the Ifakara–based Tanzanian Training Center for International Health to develop extensive content for distance learning, providing often isolated rural health workers with up-to-date knowledge, clinical data and skills development. The technology developed through the grant will also enable surgeons and specialists in other parts of Tanzania to advise health workers in rural clinics and to discuss results of clinical audits in order to improve quality of care.

Peter Baldini, Chief Executive, World Lung Foundation, commented: “In Tanzania, mothers and newborns face a deadly combination of skilled health worker shortages and distance. The new funding from the Merck for Mothers Global Giving Program will help break down these barriers, ensuring better, more responsive care in difficult-to-reach areas.”

About WLF’s Maternal Health Program

Recently published data from WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and The World Bank estimate that Tanzania, which accounted for 3% of global maternal deaths in 2010, reduced its Maternal Mortality Rate by 47% between 1990 and 2010. Since 2006, WLF has been working to help reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Tanzania by implementing a state-of-the-art maternal health program. The program aims to improve women’s access to good-quality emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural and isolated areas.

World Lung Foundation has upgraded twelve health centers in Tanzania to provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care including surgery. World Lung Foundation can point to several accomplishments across geographically strategic health centers and hospitals in seven districts in the Kigoma, Morogoro and Pwani regions. Since 2006:

• WLF has actively upgraded, renovated or rebuilt 12 rural health centers and four district hospitals to safeguard the existence of life-saving comprehensive emergency obstetric care. Prior to the program, patients had to travel 3-4 hours to the nearest hospital. Now, emergency obstetric care is available in the community.

• More than 100 assistant medical officers, nurse-midwives, and clinical officers have been trained in comprehensive emergency obstetric care or anesthesia.

• Health center utilization for delivery care has increased substantially, from about 3,500 deliveries per year in 9 health centers prior to the program to about 9,000 in 2011 after the intervention.

• More than 1,000 C-sections have been performed.

• The Ulanga district, one of 7 districts where the program is operating, saw a 32% decline in maternal deaths after the program was implemented.

“The death of a woman from complications during pregnancy and childbirth is one of the world's oldest and most preventable global health tragedies, and health worker training in remote areas is essential to ensuring women can have access to quality, affordable maternal health care”, said Dr. Naveen Rao, Lead, Merck for Mothers.

About Merck for Mothers

Merck for Mothers is Merck’s 10-year, half-billion-dollar initiative to create a world where no woman has to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. For more information, please visit

About World Lung Foundation

World Lung Foundation was established in response to the global epidemic of lung disease, which kills 10 million people each year. The organization also works on maternal and infant mortality reduction initiatives. WLF improves global health by improving local health capacity, by supporting operational research, by developing public policy and by delivering public education. The organization’s areas of emphasis are tobacco control, maternal and infant mortality prevention, tuberculosis, asthma, and child lung health. For more information, please visit

For more information, please contact Jorge Alday, World Lung Foundation, at +1.212.639.0070 or

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