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The Fourth Season of the Mama Ushauri Radio Serial Drama Begins

Health-focused Radio Program Promises an Exciting Year

At a crowded community event held outside the Buguruni Anglican Health Center in Dar es Salaam, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Hon. Prof David Mwakyusa (MP) and U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, officially launched the fourth season of the Mama Ushauri Radio Serial Drama for reproductive, child and maternal health. Other dignitaries included Dr. Gertrude Mongella, President of the Pan-African Parliament and U.S. Agency for International Development's Tanzania Director, Pamela White.

The Mama Ushauri drama will air nationally eight times per week on four radio stations: Radio Tanzania, Radio Free Africa, Radio One and Zenji FM. It follows the life and times of Mama Ushauri and other members of her fictional community of Goromonzi. This year, the 52-week drama will focus on a number of reproductive, child and maternal health issues such as planning the spacing of one's children, Vitamin A supplementation, using zinc treatment and ORS for childhood diarrhea, encouraging pregnant women to go for two courses of malaria treatment, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Mama Ushauri was developed by the Tanzania Marketing and Communications (T-MARC) Project in collaboration with partners including the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Funding comes from a variety of US government agencies including the US Agency for International Development, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the President's Malaria Initiative. Other partners include Jhpiego, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Helen Keller International via the AED A2Z Project, and AED's POUZN Project.

Over the last several years, Tanzania has had a mixture of successes and challenges in reproductive, child and maternal health. While the number of children dying from preventable causes has slowly been dropping, Tanzania's modern contraceptive prevalence remains low at 22%, and the number of maternal deaths has increased over the last 10 years from 529 to 578 for every 100,000 births. A large number of these deaths would be preventable if women visited health clinics during their pregnancy, were attended by skilled providers during their delivery, and if simple, inexpensive medicines and medical devices were available.

The Honorable Prof. David Mwakyusa, Minister of Health and Social Welfare said, "The problem of maternal, newborn and child mortality is a crosscutting issue that needs to be addressed jointly by government ministries, NGOs, the private sector and international organizations. The war we are waging must involve all these stakeholders if we are to succeed. In this light, I wish to encourage more partnerships like this season's Mama Ushauri Radio Serial Drama. I sincerely thank the U.S. Government for funding this important initiative."

The U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, told the crowd that the American people care about the welfare of Tanzanian women and children, committing nearly $84 million during the past three years alone. With U.S. funding, "any Tanzanian with access to a radio will now have current information about key health topics. And they will learn about these issues without even realizing it thanks to the entertaining format of the radio serial drama."

In her remarks, USAID Director, Pamela White told the crowd that taking action to improve reproductive, child and maternal health is an investment in Tanzania. "I believe that the lives and health of women and children is important not only for the sake of women themselves, but because women are major contributors to the development of the nation."

Diana Kisaka, Managing Director of the Tanzania Marketing and Communications Company which spearheads the Mama Ushauri radio serial drama, summed up the launch event with an enthusiastic review of the exciting story plots facing listeners this year. "Mama Ushauri's world is filled with mystery and intrigue, tragedy and triumph. This year characters will fall in love, some will face health scares, a child will die from preventable causes, and couples will be forced to make decisions that will change their lives. I can't wait to see what happens this season, can you?"

Posted April 2008

Read more about the Tanzania Marketing and Communications Project (T-MARC) project