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Feb 21, 2006
New report finds dramatic improvement in Tanzanian child survival rates

DAR ES SALAAM - Significantly more Tanzanian infants are living to see their first birthday than did five years ago, according to the newly released 2004-05 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS). The infant mortality rate is now 68 deaths per 1,000 live births, while five years ago the 1999 survey showed an infant mortality rate of 99 deaths per 1,000 live births.

And more children are living beyond their first year. The 2004-05 TDHS also revealed a mortality rate for children under five years of 112 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a rate of 147 five years ago. Yet despite this improvement, one of every nine children in Tanzania dies before his or her fifth birthday.

According to the report, childhood mortality varies throughout Tanzania. It is higher in rural areas than in urban areas and lower among children whose mothers have secondary or higher education than those with uneducated mothers. Childhood mortality is especially high among children born less than two years after a previous birth (infant mortality of 143 deaths per 1,000 live births) while children born three years after a previous birth have a very low mortality rate (55 deaths per 1,000 live births).

“It’s very important that women wait three years between births to reduce the chances of infant and child mortality,” notes J.J. Rubona of the Ministry of Health.  

Although the exact causes of this impressive increase in child survival are not known, the 2004-05 does show improvement in other child health indicators. More infants are being exclusively breastfed now than in 1999 (41 percent compared to 27 percent). Vitamin A supplementation, which helps prevent blindness and infection, has risen three-fold since the last survey with almost half of children under age 5 now receiving vitamin A supplements. Young children are facing fewer nutritional challenges than they were five years ago, as the percentages of those too short for their height (stunted), too thin for their height (wasted) and underweight also declined.

The 2004-05 TDHS is based on interviews with over 10,000 women and over 2,600 men. The survey was carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics and funded by a variety of donors through the pooled fund of the Poverty Eradication Division (PED) of the Vice President’s Office. Technical assistance was provided by U.S.-based ORC Macro and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The 2004-05 TDHS is the sixth in a series of national surveys carried out through the MEASURE DHS project.

About the MEASURE DHS project: The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) project is a global data collection effort funded by USAID and carried out by ORC Macro and in-country implementing organizations. These nationally representative household surveys collect data on demographic patterns, fertility, health, and nutrition for policy and program planning.