More than a technical term, capacity building impacts thousands of mothers, newborns and healthcare workers.


In a country where nearly one woman will die every hour from complications in pregnancy or childbirth, Tanzania is one of the most dangerous places in the world for expectant mothers and their newborns.

You have heard us say this before.

The statistics are shocking and tragic, especially in light of the fact that most of these deaths are preventable. However, the odds are shifting. Your support is saving lives, building a stronger foundation for Tanzania’s healthcare system, and embedding best practices for generations to come. Together, we are preventing the preventable.

Through this 3-part Maternal Monday blog series, we will profile just some of the life saving initiatives your support makes possible, share the impact these changes are having on women, medical teams, and hospitals, and show how that impact culminates in healthier, more productive futures for people and communities in Tanzania. 

Building Capacity in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

We often talk about our support for capacity building in 23 public healthcare facilities in Dar es Salaam. While ‘capacity building’ may sound ambiguous, for the team in Tanzania, the goals are simple:

To strengthen medical teams, and empower them to save more lives.

Photo by Benjamin Eagle

Dar es Salaam is one of the largest, and fastest growing cities in Africa. This rapid growth is not without its challenges. A healthcare system that was designed to support 750,000 people is now supporting a population of 4.4 million. With the population projected to exceed 7 million by 2025, the city’s healthcare system needs to adapt quickly. Hospitals and clinics throughout the region are severely overcrowded and struggle to keep pace with growing demand. Healthcare facilities are understaffed, overwhelmed and under resourced, and patients are suffering as a result.

An insufficient safe blood supply means post-partum hemorrhage is often a death sentence. A shortage of fetal heart rate monitors means a baby’s distress often goes unnoticed. Overwhelmed nurses triaging overflowing delivery wards cannot see the warning signs of pre-eclampsia or other deadly complications through the crowd. With no formal neonatology programs in Tanzania, a sick newborn in need of specialist care relies on physicians with limited training.

The death of a mother or newborn rarely occurs because a medical team neglected their patient. It’s usually a matter of too few resources delivered too late.

Empowering teams to improve quality

CCBRT recognized that healthcare teams in the Dar es Salaam region were desperate to save their patients’ lives, and could be empowered to do so. With the support of the Government of Tanzania, CCBRT launched their Capacity Building program in 2010, offering on-the-job training and mentoring, distributing critical equipment and supplies and refurbishing labor wards and operating theaters. CCBRT introduced a Standards Based Management and Recognition tool (SBMR) to measure quality of care, raising the bar for quality across the region and encouraging the use of data to inform decision making.

  • Since CCBRT began building capacity in Dar es Salaam healthcare facilities in 2010, the average quality of care score (where 100% = perfection) has increased from 9% to over 79%.
  • The maternal mortality rate in the region has fallen by 30%.
  • As of mid-August, one of the largest referral hospitals in the region completed a 20-week run without any maternal deaths. This is a significant improvement on previous years.

But we’re not going to rest on these victories. We’re going to keep working to ensure every expectant mother in Tanzania has access to the high quality, individualized, respectful care she needs to bring her child safely into the world. We want every hospital in the program to celebrate consecutive months that are free from the tragedy of maternal deaths. With your support and the support of our partners, we can sustain these improvements.

Next week, tune in to read how greater access to information is empowering women and medical teams to make critical decisions about their health, and the health of their patients.