DODOMA, TANZANIA-- The Tanzanian government has set a target for reducing maternal deaths from the current 556 deaths per 100,000 live births to 292 deaths by 2020, says the Director of Health Services in the President's Office, Dr Ntuli Kapologwe.

A survey conducted in 2015/16 indicates that maternal deaths have decreased to 454 from 556 deaths per 100,000 live births in previous years, according to Dr Kapologwe.

We were taken aback by the survey findings. We discovered that one of the main causes of maternal deaths was the distance to health facilities and lack of integrated services for mothers at health facilities, he told journalists here Tuesday.

Dr Kapologwe said the government was determined to see no maternal death for any reason, adding that in order to attain the goal of reducing maternal deaths, the government had embarked on a programme to repair and put up new health facilities.

Under the programme, the government had constructed 183 health facilities and repaired 518 health facilities in the 2017/18 fiscal year, pointing out that the goal was to have 888 health centres by 2020.

To attain the goal, we are constructing 289 new health facilities by 2020 beginning from this year, he noted. Dr Kapologwe said apart from improving health service infrastructure, the government had built new operating theatres, incinerators and placenta pits at health facilities to control the prevalence of infections.

We are constructing 67 new municipal hospitals by 2019 to improve a referral system for patients of public hospitals."

Dr Kapologwe explained that the new public hospitals and those owned by religious institutions would reduce the distance covered by mothers to seek health services, hence reduce maternal and infant deaths.