Government of Tanzania Launches a National Strategy to Ensure All Tanzanians Can Access Safe Surgical Care by 2025

Safe surgical care is critical to improving public health and economic prosperity in Tanzania

Press release

The Government of Tanzania is proud to announce the launch of a national plan to improve Tanzanians’ access to safe, affordable and timely surgical, anesthesia and obstetric services by 2025.

Almost 20% of deaths in Tanzania result from diseases that can be treated by surgical care. The lack of access to safe surgical, obstetric and anesthesia care contributes to maternal mortality and causes a significant economic burden due to avoidable death and disability from trauma, mainly in the young working population.

“We believe safe surgical care is essential to ensuring every Tanzanian can lead a healthy and productive life. Improving the provision and quality of surgical and anesthesia care is a continuation of our work to improve maternal health across the country,” explains Ummy Mwalimu, Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. “Tanzania is the third country in the world to commit to improving surgical provision by developing and implementing a National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plan – we are proud to be leading the way forward.”

The National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plan (NSOAP) identifies ways to strengthen the building blocks of the surgical health system, bringing together all relevant stakeholders and resources towards a common goal. The plan is structured around six key areas: service delivery, infrastructure, human resource, information management and technology, finance and governance.

The plan was developed by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MOHCDGEC), the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG) with the support of Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change as part of  Safe Surgery 2020 – a partnership, funded by GE Foundation, which brings together innovations, global expertise and local experience to make surgical care safe and accessible for all.

The NSOAP outlines implementation plans, including accelerating existing efforts to improve safe surgery in the country. The Government continues to make advancements in increasing access to surgical care, especially for maternal care improvement, including extensive upgrades of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care sites, and the delivery of blood and supplies by drone. But a more coordinated effort of current and new actors in the health and surgical space is required to continue to accelerate impact; this is what the NSOAP aims to deliver.

“Quality surgical care strengthens the entire health system, and contributes to safer care at the district, regional and zonal hospital level,” says Dr. Zainab Chaula, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government. “Through the plan, we are strengthening the linkages between different hospitals, but also between the private sector, academia, health providers and the government. It is this collaboration that will allow us to transform our surgical provision.”

With less than 30 practicing anesthesiologists serving 55 million people in Tanzania, the plan identifies the lack of trained surgical and anesthesia providers as the most pressing issue in improving care in Tanzania. Expanding and developing the surgical workforce is a priority for the first phase of NSOAP implementation. Safe Surgery 2020 will be closely collaborating with MOHCDGEC and PORALG to strengthen surgical anesthesia and obstetric teams in the Lake Zone through a targeted capacity building program, as well as tracking success through improved data collection.

“Developing quality surgical systems is a complex task but it has been proven to be an affordable and effective way of improving a wide range of health outcomes. We are thrilled to continue supporting the Tanzanian Government in their efforts to improve safe surgical, anesthesia and obstetric care,” says Asha Varghese, Global Health Director at GE Foundation, lead funder of Safe Surgery 2020.

The launch of the NSOAP is an important first step towards creating a robust and accessible surgical system. To achieve Tanzania’s 2025 goal, a range of stakeholders must come together to manage, fund and implement the plan: We need academic institutions, professional associations, front-line staff and health care organizations focused on surgery in Tanzania to align their objectives with the NSOAP. We need to collect data from all facilities providing surgery and analyse at a local, regional and national level to monitor progress. We need to secure additional investment into implementing the plan.

Surgery is only possible when the surgical team members work together. The NSOAP equally relies on collaboration to succeed. And just as surgery has the potential to save lives, the NSOAP lays out the way to transform health care, improve economic productivity and accelerate gender equality in Tanzania.

To learn more or to speak with a representative on the launch of the National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plan, please contact:

Kate Richards

Communications Lead at Safe Surgery 2020


Notes to Editors

Collaborators on the Report

The plan was developed by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MOHCDGEC), the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG) with the support of Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change as part of  Safe Surgery 2020.

The plan brings together  multiple stakeholder groups including the Tanzanian Surgical Association (TSA) , Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Tanzania (AGOTA), Society of anaesthesiologists of Tanzania (SATA),  Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) , Tanzania Nursing association (TANNA) , the private and faith based sector such as Christian Social services Commission (CSSC)  and the Association of Private Health Facilities of Tanzania (APHFTA) as well as a number of NGO partners, clinicians  and end users to ensure that the views of frontline providers, users and implementers were reflected in this ambitious but attainable plan.