Information and stories on Tanzania

Sea Sponge FarmingZanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, enjoys high financial capacity due to its successful tourist industry, fishing and seaweed production. However, many of Zanzibar’s coastal communities still suffer from acute poverty and local industries are under threat from environmental degradation. One nonprofit, Marine Cultures, aims to solve these issues by introducing sea sponge farming to households in Zanzibar.

The Benefits of Sea Sponge Farming

Sea sponge farming offers a more economically sustainable option than the traditional seaweed farming industry. Farming seaweed for the production of carrageenan, a common thickener in foods, has long been a staple industry for the employment of Zanzibari women. However, the industry is in decline, as seaweed is susceptible to pests and diseases. Additionally, the global market price for seaweed is now low and more labor-intensive farming is rewarded with comparatively minimal income. As a consequence, many single women struggle to make a living from farming seaweed.

Farming sea sponges, however, offer higher monetary returns for a lower-maintenance product. Unlike seaweed, pearl farming, or traditional fishing, sea sponge farming is less time consuming and allows farmers the time and opportunity to pursue other economic activities. Marine Cultures introduced the first sponge farm to coastal Zanzibar in 2009. Since then, the organization installs up to four new sponge farms a year and each farm generates enough income to feed 2-3 families of approximately ten people. The organization specifically targets single, unemployed women, granting them a one-year training period before turning over the farm. This strategy allows the recipient to independently establish and operate their business.

Giving Back To The Ecosystem

Zanzibar’s coastal ecosystems, although essential to the island’s wellbeing, are under pressure from a variety of factors. Overfishing, invasive species, unregulated tourism, dumping of human waste, overpopulation and rising water temperatures are just some of those.

However, sea sponge farms answer the call to establish sustainable forms of using natural resources extracted from the local ecosystem. As the market price of sea sponges remains high, sea sponge farming offers a financially viable alternative to traditional fishing, reducing overfishing and easing some pressure off of the coastal ecosystem. Additionally, sponges are filter-feeders, which means that in addition to saving farmers money on feed costs, they also act as a biofilter that filters out particles in the water.

In this way, sea sponges can help act as a buffer against pollution and encourage the health of local coral reefs. Marine Culture’s sponge farms have even been shown to improve local stocks of species on certain occasions.

Future Perspectives

Looking to the future, sea sponges pose a promising new industry to Zanzibar and beyond. Those women who have begun operating their own sea sponge farms through Marine Cultures report increased income for lower amounts of labor than they experienced harvesting seaweed. All the while, these farms pose long-term career opportunities, as farmers learn the skills not only of sea sponge farming but of marine biology, entrepreneurship and commerce.

By the end of this year, a twelfth sea sponge farm is on track to become independent. Marine Cultures hopes that by 2022, they will be able to remove themselves completely from the local industry and turn over all sponge farms to a local organization that will train future farmers without oversight from Marine Cultures.

– Alexandra Black 
Photo: Flickr

Flaviana Matata FoundationInternational fashion model Flaviana Matata survived malaria and studied electrical engineering in college. In 2007, Matata was the first-ever Tanzanian woman to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. In 2016, after learning that house paint is often passed off and sold as nail polish in Tanzania, she founded Lavy Products, a nontoxic nail polish company whose products appear online and in stores and salons across Tanzania. As she breaks records and embarks upon entrepreneurial endeavors, Matata has made philanthropy a priority, founding the Flaviana Matata Foundation in 2011.

Matata’s foundation is a nongovernmental organization that supports women’s education in Tanzania. The foundation also helps women establish their own businesses and find employment opportunities.

Education in Tanzania

In Tanzania, less than 56% of children move onto secondary school after completing their primary school education. While the Tanzanian government abolished school fees for primary and secondary school education in 2015, costs such as transportation, lunch and exams still make it three times less likely that students from poor families will attend primary school when compared with children from wealthy families. As of 2016, the poverty rate in Tanzania is estimated to be 26.8%, meaning that more than 13 million Tanzanians live in poverty.

“A lot of kids do very well in school but have to quit or stop because they can’t afford school fees, uniforms or even books—the little things we take for granted,” Matata said in an interview for the Diamond Empowerment Fund, which has helped sponsor many of the Flaviana Matata Foundation’s initiatives.

The Foundation’s Approach to the Gender Gap

Girls are less likely than boys to receive a secondary-level education in Tanzania. The literacy rate for adult women in Tanzania was approximately 67% in 2009. Laws banning child marriage and fee-free education at the secondary level have been important steps toward increasing access to education in Tanzania, but more progress still needs to be made.

The Flaviana Matata Foundation aims to achieve this progress and make education in Tanzania more accessible for women. To date, the Flaviana Matata Foundation has helped over 5,000 students in Tanzania, providing school supplies, improving school infrastructure, adding desks and giving toiletry boxes for girls to use while on their menstrual cycles.

Ongoing Activism

The foundation has prioritized various projects since 2011. The Clean and Safe Water Project, completed in 2018, provides 319 students and teachers with a supply of clean water. The Stationery Back to School Project, completed in early 2020, equipped 304 students with stationery kits to last the academic year. The foundation’s ongoing project, Education Sponsorship for Young Girls, currently sponsors 25 girls from secondary school to college or university age with full scholarships and vocational and educational training.

Matata, whose Instagram following is 1.5 million as of July 2020, regularly shares information about Lavy Products and the Flaviana Matata Foundation online. Her work proves that social media can be used to make a positive impact and combat education inequality. As 24 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa remain unable to afford an education, the Flaviana Matata Foundation’s initiatives continue to play a crucial role in bridging education gaps.

Zoe Engels
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Tanzania
The percentage of Tanzania’s population living on about $1.90 per day remains at 49.1% as of 2017, according to data from The World Bank. President Benjamin W Mkapa commented on the state of poverty in 2004 stating that ‘‘… the poor must be brought from the margins into the mainstream. The process must be inclusive. The weakest economies and communities need special and differentiated help.’’ President Mkapa shared his thoughts on including everyone in the process for universal aid and healthcare in Tanzania, which stretches from the cities to the rural agricultural communities. His words echoed the thousands of people living in extreme poverty where, like most other countries, their healthcare quality is dependent on wealth, status, location and transportation.

Effects of Poor Healthcare in the Poorest Communities

Masuma Mamdani and Maggie Bangser wrote a literary review in 2004 titled Poor People’s Experiences of Health Services in Tanzania, where they discussed the effects of poor quality of healthcare in Tanzania. Sexual and reproductive health was a major focus, especially with the implications it has for poor women in the region. ‘‘Many [poor women] cannot afford transport costs so they sell their food, borrow, use herbs or just wait to die,” a healthcare worker shared from Mpwapwa.

According to Mamdani and Bangser’s literary review, key barriers to the poor in this region include:

  • The availability of drugs and medicines
  • The shortage of qualified personnel
  • Distance and transport issues
  • Charges
  • Governance

The government has written out and implemented a number of policies, but the issue of inaccessible healthcare for the poorest of the population is still prominent. Today, the United States is working in conjunction with the Tanzanian government to address a multitude of healthcare issues with USAID. For example, the strengthening of Tanzania’s own health system is imperative through supplies, more healthcare workers and supporting finances; but these efforts mostly concentrate within major cities and areas of high population density.

History of Healthcare Legislation

Since the East African country of Tanzania gained independence from Britain in 1961, there have been many ups and downs in the fight for healthcare for all citizens. The Arusha Declaration of 1967 moved towards the nationalization of public services, including medical, but ultimately failed due to economic decline. As the population rose and poverty levels increased through the years, especially in rural communities, even the numerous improvements in health services could barely keep up with the demand.

Healthcare in Tanzania today still does not receive enough funding and is nearly inaccessible outside of major cities. The funds directed towards the health sector have declined from 9.6% in 2014 to 7% in 2018, and the investments do not meet the estimated minimum requirement to guarantee basic health services to the population. There are a number of privatized health care options along with four main insurance programs available to the public, but even so, a large number of the population does not have insurance due to the high costs.

To combat this disparity, Tanzania enacted a Health Sector Strategic Plan from 2015-2020 to gain quality improvement in healthcare, provide equitable access to all and to achieve active community partnership. The Tanzanian government had implemented its fourth strategic plan, building on previously stated actions meaning to expand coverage of health insurance and extend quality health services to the poorer regions. For example, one of the core strategic objectives target the improvement of quality health services through ensuring essential services, a quality rating system, providing adequate staffing, performance management systems and more.

Independent Initiatives in Tanzania

Besides the government legislation that is currently in place and making changes, other independent NGO initiatives are making a difference for healthcare in Tanzania as well. An American initiative, Roads To Life, has dedicated itself to building and improving medical facilities in the Nkololo village, along with constructing roads and funding education. This nonprofit serves a primarily agricultural area with a population of 22,000, addressing the need for quality medical services outside of major cities and transport improvements between towns and regions. Roads To Life has also expanded and renewed the Songambele Health Center, which emerged in 1994. It can now treat up to 560 patients and has a new surgical center. After the addition of new operating suites which opened in 2016, there have been 149 surgical procedures. These new technologies and resources are vital to the health of Nkolo community members, who often had to go to the District Hospital for emergency procedures which was an hour away.

The combination of service and community makes all of the difference in healthcare in Tanzania. Influence from these discussed governmental and independent initiatives is still spreading throughout the country and there is still more work for the country to accomplish in terms of sexual and reproductive health. The efforts that Tanzania has put forth towards universal healthcare and providing quality medical services in more locations is a great push in the right direction to fight the effects of poverty in the poorest regions of this country.

– Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania's People-Centered RoadsTanzania’s rural roads are filled with the hustle and bustle of commuters. Large trucks speed past children walking to school, dust swirls up from the ground as farmers whiz by on motorcycles transporting goods and men and women trek to markets, jobs and services. For residents, these roads serve as essential gateways connecting to social, economic and educational opportunities. Despite the fact that most rural residents do not own cars or motorbikes, Tanzania’s current transport network is targeted primarily for vehicles. The Tanzania Roads to Inclusion and Socioeconomic Opportunities Program (RISE) is working to establish “People-Centered” roads that allow for efficient, safe and inclusive access to roads.

The Danger of Rural Roads

Safe and dependable transport is key to saving lives. Tanzania has one of the highest traffic-related death rates in the world at approximately 33 deaths per 100,000 people. Road accidents can be disastrous for low-income populations; when a member of a rural household is injured in a road accident, the average household income falls drastically. For example, a young Tanzanian boy named Nickson was hit by a car and severely damaged his leg while crossing the Tanzania-Zambia highway on his way home from school. Nickson’s performance in school declined drastically due to the time spent in the hospital and healing at home. Furthermore, Nickson’s mother missed out on farm work to take care of him, placing financial strain on the family. Nickson’s story reveals the devastating impact that unsafe roads can have on rural communities.

A People-Centered Approach

In the past, few resources have been devoted to local roads in order to address rural poverty. About 70 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural areas that experience far deeper levels of poverty. Low productivity and the absence of market integration efforts are the main causes of income disparity between rural and urban communities. However, the Roads to Inclusion and Socio-economic Opportunities Program Project aims to transform Tanzania’s rural transportation system.

The World Bank and the Tanzanian government are working together to create a People-Centered Design, an approach that makes rural roads accessible and safe to everyone. The approach to Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads ensures that vulnerable road users are a central part of the development process; consultants collect information from rural community members about the current needs, uses and safety hazards of their road, and structure interviews in a way that engages women, men, girls and boys alike. This ensures that all stakeholders are heard and accounted for in the technical design of a road. People-Centered Road Safety Audits are utilized to view roads from the perspective of pedestrians, public transport users and cyclists. These inspections guarantee the inclusion of different socio-economic groups in the project’s development. The People-Centered approach was successfully utilized in three rural road projects in the Iringa region in preparation to implement the nationwide RISE project.

Kickstarting the Agricultural Sector

Safe and accessible rural transportation networks can kickstart the agricultural sector and dramatically reduce poverty as they connect rural communities to markets. Tanzania struggles with low productivity in its agricultural sector. Although rich with arable land, many agricultural areas in Tanzania are not accessible throughout the year due to missing or inadequate road links. These infrastructure shortcomings create lofty transportation costs and keep rural areas from reaching their full potential, as an average 35% of total agricultural production is lost post-harvest. With the agricultural industry employing 75% of the nation’s population, improving rural roads is critical to improving market access and socioeconomic opportunities for Tanzania’s rural poor.

Improving Well-Being and Economic Prosperity for Women

Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads are especially focused on increasing safety and income-generating activities for women. Poverty is pervasive among Tanzanian women, with female-headed households more likely to experience poverty than those headed by males. When it comes to road safety, women are particularly vulnerable because most do not have access to motorized transportation. RISE plans to incorporate a gender-balanced approach to road-design that empowers women to participate in their communities’ decision making while protecting them from sexual exploitation and abuse. In addition, 56 percent of rural Tanzanian women work in agriculture. By boosting the agricultural sector’s productivity, RISE will also help rural women increase their incomes.

Safe and accessible rural transportation networks are crucial to reducing poverty, growing the economy and improving road safety in Tanzania. The Tanzania Roads to Inclusion and Socioeconomic Opportunities Program is connecting local communities to national markets and increasing access to health, education and farming inputs. Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads are transforming the lives of rural residents and ensuring that fewer citizens are disadvantaged by road accidents.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Flickr

Six Facts about Hunger in TanzaniaHunger is a worldwide issue that claims the lives of 25,000 people every single day. Lack of access to food, inflation of food cost and food security are just a few things that continue to make hunger a global issue. In Tanzania, there are 14 million citizens considered poor, and 26.4% living in poverty. In 2014, there were approximately 5 million people who were food insecure and that number is expected to almost triple by 2024. With this many people living in poverty, going hungry is sometimes the only option. To better understand this crisis, here are six facts about hunger in Tanzania:

6 Facts About Hunger in Tanzania

  1. The lack of access to food is the biggest issue of hunger in Tanzania. In 2015, it was reported that more than 40% of citizens experience a shortage of food. These shortages happen for several reasons including drought, insufficient farming tools and poor soil. In Tanzania, 80% of their population lives in more rural areas. These areas are impacted the most because they rely so much on rain to fuel agriculture.
  2. Tanzania has what it calls a hunger season. This consists of the months from June to October where rainfall is essentially non-existent. Dr. Borda is a woman who lived in Tanzania for nearly 30 years. She says, “When the rains are late or excessive, the harvest fails . . . People here can really suffer from hunger at any time of the year — but especially in July, August and September.” During this dry spell, families often run out of food entirely. One-third of children under the age of five die because of malnutrition, a common result of this hunger season.
  3. In November of 2019, the price of food in Tanzania had inflated 6.7% from just 2% in 2018. Dr. Phillip Mpango, a Minister of Finance and Planning, says the increase is in connection with “transport challenges, marketing infrastructure, warehousing and the supply chain of food products in certain areas.” He also states that neighboring countries who are experiencing food shortages too have become the main destination for Tanzanian exports. Therefore, the cost of food becomes inflated.
  4. Stunting, caused by extreme hunger, is an outcome many children battle. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stunting is defined as “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” In Tanzania, stunting affects 34% of children today. Luckily, Tanzania has begun taking steps to address child hunger. These have included collecting data from inside the home, making nutritional information widely available and educating health officials on how to better teach patients and their families.
  5. Along with stunting, malnourishment is another danger for children. Children who are malnourished not only face the physical consequences but also mental consequences. Studies show that malnourishment can weaken a child’s capacity to learn, increase instances of anxiety, lowers their IQ’s and increases troubles socializing for children.
  6. Food security is heavily correlated with sufficient food nutrition and consumption in Tanzania. Unfortunately, food security is low. According to the United Nations World Food Program, a mere 15% of families living in rural areas are food insecure, and another 15% are at great risk of becoming food insecure. Some reasons for the high food insecurity rate can be linked to poor economic growth, lack of education and minimal health care.

Resolutions

Despite these challenges faced by Tanzania, measures have been put in place to help mitigate some of these problems. One such solution is Plumpy’Nut which was invented by a French doctor for the treatment of malnourishment in babies and young children. This product is a peanut butter paste which includes other ingredients such as dried milk, oil, sugar as well as minerals and vitamins necessary for growth. Plumpy’Nut is easily accessible to families living in poverty as it does not require water or heat to cook it.

One organization that is doing its part to reduce hunger in Tanzania is Action Against Hunger. This NGO is a part of a 2016-2021 plan, called National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) that aims to reduce malnourishment. They have partnered with the local governments and have been able to train healthcare workers and providers. They also providing the technical support necessary to screen and treat children suffering from malnourishment.

Although Tanzania is not out of the woods yet, they are finally receiving much needed aid at fighting hunger and saving lives.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Villagers set out to fish in the coastal areas. Ending poverty in all its forms is the first of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Although the initiative has achieved progress toward decreasing the number of people living in extreme poverty, there are still parts of the world lagging behind. This is the case for many isolated and rural regions. Recent innovations in geospatial mapping technology can improve the ability to locate, understand and help these communities.

Geospatial Mapping Technology Contest

The American Geographical Society’s innovational contest, The EthicalGEO Challenge, is creating a dialogue around the ethics of geospatial mapping technology. The initiative calls for participants to enter a three-minute video proposal detailing their idea for a mapping tool that will promote social good.

Seven winners were selected in 2019 for a $7,500 fellowship prize to help them launch their respective projects, which will use location data and geospatial mapping technology to empower vulnerable communities in a variety of ways.

Several fellows’ projects will use mapping technology to tackle social justice challenges — for example, land rights and expulsion in a Tanzania community, exploitation of public health data or environmental protection and sustainability. Another fellow chose to take a more direct approach in addressing ethics by developing a video toolbox that can be used to teach geo-privacy in classrooms. Through their wide range of ideas, the contest winners are shedding light on the versatility and adaptability of geospatial mapping technology.

Geospatial Mapping in Rural Fishing Villages

Fellowship winner Dr. Alfredo Giron-Nava, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is focusing on using geospatial mapping technology to empower small-scale fishing villages.

These coastal regions are often classified as vulnerable because of their high dependency on a single commodity, and can face overexploitation if they lack sustainable fishing methods. Additionally, their reliance on natural resources makes fisheries sensitive to the effects of climate change, which have become more distinct in recent years. Fishing is a critical need but endangered the economic sector in many regions including South Asia, Central America and Mexico’s Gulf of California where nearly 80% of the population experiences poverty.

Giron-Nava proposed a plan to create the first global map on the prevalence of poverty in fishing villages around the world. The mapping initiative is aimed at better understanding the demographics and locations of these fishing communities, particularly those in developing regions where fisheries are essential to the economy.

  • The first phase of the project focuses on understanding living conditions and wages in fishing villages in different regions, using publicly available information from databases and agencies such as the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • In the second phase of the project, this regional data will be compared against each country’s national poverty line, which is characterized by factors such as access to food, housing, adequate sanitation, health services, and education. These findings will be used to create a more detailed, subnational map showing which areas are comparatively experiencing the highest rates of poverty.

Contextualizing data on poverty levels by country is important because it allows for the development of specific poverty reduction strategies that match the social, cultural and economic context of each community.

Information gathered by innovative technologies creates a new lens for the development of social justice policies. A crucial first step to eradicating poverty is understanding the distribution and concentration of those whom it affects. By addressing these key issues in a responsible and ethical manner, geospatial mapping technology has the potential to be a powerful tool for ending poverty in rural and isolated areas.

–  Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Youth Sports Empowerment Programs in Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Youth Development recognizes the crucial role sports play in young people’s development. However, people in the country have been doing little to develop youth talents, resulting in inadequate facilities for sports and training grounds. The following information examines the situation along with the efforts to promote the youth sports empowerment programs in Tanzania and the organizations at the forefront of the movement.

The Situation

The Tanzanian government focuses on youth development since youth make up 18% of the population. However, with three-quarters of youth employment in agriculture and rapid urbanization, youth are vulnerable in the labor market. Less than 12% of the total population completes lower secondary education, and those with post-secondary education earn approximately 40 times more than the general population. To change this, many organizations are using sports to give underprivileged youth the skills they need to secure job opportunities.

The UN’s Leadership Camp

The U.N. acknowledges the role of sports in empowering underprivileged youth from Sub-Saharan Africa. It established a leadership camp consisting of 30 young people serving as leaders in their communities. The U.N. Office on Sport for Development and Peace ran this initiative and addressed topics such as health, education and gender. The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, stated that “The United Nations has long understood the unique power of sport for change, but for change to happen, strong leadership is needed.”

Youth Sports Empowerment Programs in Tanzania

The Tanzanian nonprofit organization Foundation For Civil Society (FCS) is implementing youth-focused projects in six regions of Tanzania. These projects use educational sports and games to mobilize youth in the suburbs of Dar es Salaam. This establishes a beneficial platform between youth and their leaders.

Umoja Tanzania is an NGO that partners with Umoja UK and Global Development Group to support Tanzanian youth. Umoja focuses on 55.33% of unemployed youth who lack alternatives in education or employment. The organizations YES! program transforms young lives through sports. In disadvantaged communities in Tanzania, youth learn inclusion, empowerment and sustainability. These sports and activities not only teach new skills but build confidence and self-esteem in youth.

Since more than 75% of Africa’s total population is under 35 years old, young people face profound challenges. Africare is an NGO that works to build sustainable, healthy and productive communities. Without the right resources, youth are vulnerable to drugs and crime. Africare’s Kick AIDS project uses soccer to create positive environments, engaging young people in HIV prevention education. Africare’s Northern Region Kick AIDS soccer league educated 1,380 youths in the Sports For Life curriculum about how healthy behaviors keep them safe as they enter adulthood.

While youth in Tanzania suffer from a lack of resources, sports provide a foundation for teaching life skills and economic development. Youth sports empowerment programs in Tanzania not only encourage youth to seek out jobs but provide them with an encouraging environment to grow physically and professionally.

Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr

The US is Making Strides to Help Reduce HIV in Tanzania Tanzania is the largest and most populous country in East Africa, with nearly 59 million inhabitants. It is a youthful and rapidly growing population with a fertility rate of nearly 4.8 children per woman. Almost two-thirds of the population is under 25, and 42% is under 15. While malaria is the leading cause of death for children under 5, HIV/AIDS is the main killer among adults. In 2018, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Tanzania, with a prevalence rate of 4.6% among adults. Approximately 24,000 adults died of AIDS-related illnesses, the seventh-most in the world. As more of the country’s population reaches adulthood, containing the spread of HIV in Tanzania will become even more important, and international assistance can continue playing an important role in the effort to do so. 

The 90-90-90 Target to reduce HIV in Tanzania

In 2017, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a joint venture of six UN agencies that coordinates the international fight against HIV, set a “90-90-90” global target for 2020. The goals were by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV would know the status of their disease, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV would be receiving antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving treatment for HIV would have viral suppression. 

Although it is too early to predict whether Tanzania will achieve these targets, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reports the country has made strides in fighting the disease. In addition, the number of AIDS-related deaths per year declined to 49% between 2010 and 2018. Moreover, according to a 2019 report based on a 2016-2017 survey, Tanzania appeared close to reaching at least two of the three 90-90-90 benchmarks: 60.6% of people knew their status as living with HIV; around 93.6% of people diagnosed with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy; 87% had viral suppression of the people receiving treatment.

Action Taken by the United States

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the United States’ response to the epidemic and is a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The initiative provides antiretroviral treatment to more than 14.6 million people in more than 50 countries. As a result, this reflects remarkable progress since the program began in 2003 when only 50,000 people were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the United States’ program uses granular data to map the HIV epidemic and maximize the impact of its efforts. For example, in 2014 the U.S. announced the Accelerating Children on HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative. Around 84,745 people in Tanzania who are 20 years or younger were receiving ART. The ACT initiative has given ART treatment to over a million children and adolescents in total.

PEPFAR and DREAMS

Girls are roughly 75% more likely to become HIV infected than boys. In addition, PEPFAR has created DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe). In an overview between 2016 and 2019, PEPFAR DREAMS in Tanzania was given over 52 million dollars in funding. Private sector partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson and Johnson. As with all PEPFAR countries, the U.S. collaborates with Tanzania’s government in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children started the National Aids Control Programme (NACP).

Tanzania took strides to reach the 90-90-90 target. One of these is the Treat All strategy, where they attempt to test and treat as many people as possible. Another effort includes distributing condoms to public and private places consistently to prevent the spread of infection. They also hope to educate males to raise awareness about their vital role in spreading the virus. Finally, they hope to address sub-groups at higher risk, such as those who inject drugs. These efforts, among many others, have helped reach the hopeful numbers listed above and have given Tanzania great potential for progress towards 2030.

Looking Ahead

The NACP is proud of its efforts to eradicate HIV in Tanzania. Looking forward, UNAIDS has created a new target: 95-95-95 by 2030. Tanzania is making progress and has a bright future.

Annie Raglow

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa
As tuberculosis (TB) kills more than a million people each year, a new strategy to detect the disease has emerged: using rats to identify TB positive samples. TB remains the world’s deadliest disease, infecting 10 million and killing 1.5 million people in 2018. Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa is also the main cause of death for people living with HIV.

In Mozambique, where 13.2% of the population has HIV, more than half of the people with TB also have HIV. Along with malnutrition and other diseases, HIV reduces resistance to TB, so people living in poverty are especially susceptible to TB. Those experiencing poverty are also more likely to have fewer healthcare options and spend most of their lives in overcrowded conditions and poorly ventilated buildings where TB can easily spread. However, TB is treatable; it just needs to be caught in time. APOPO, a Belgian NGO, works to detect tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa by training rats to sniff it out.

How Can Rats Detect Tuberculosis?

For nine months, African giant pouched rats are trained to sniff out TB from samples of sputum — the mucus produced from coughs. Much like the Pavlov’s dog theory, trainers condition rats to associate the sound of a click with a reward; the rats only hear a click and receive a reward when they interact with TB positive samples. The rats have to hold their snouts over the sample for two to three seconds to indicate the positive sample. To “graduate” and become heroRATS — the official name for APOPOs rats — the rats go through a testing process where they have to detect every TB positive sample among rows of sputum.

Since 2007, APOPO has partnered with local clinics that send potential TB samples for the rats to check. Health clinics perform smear microscopy tests that often come up negative when they are actually positive. The heroRATS help to correct this problem by accurately identifying the TB positive samples. Their detection rats can check up to 100 TB samples in 20 minutes while the same task might take a lab technician up to four days. After the APOPO lab confirms the TB samples tested by the rats (using WHO methods), they alert the clinic about the results. So far, the rats have screened 580,534 TB samples and prevented 126,375 potential TB infections, raising TB detection rates of partner clinics by 40%.

The Relationship Between TB and Poverty

When medical professionals are unable to detect tuberculosis and treat it in time, the disease can augment poverty rates, making living conditions even worse for people who have it. Because TB is highly contagious, those with the disease are not allowed to go to work or school, leading to a loss of income and education. The stigma surrounding TB is also detrimental; people are often excluded from the community, so they can no longer rely on support from previous outlets. APOPO’s work to increase the TB test’s accuracy and speed helps those infected to know their correct results and then seek more immediate treatment.

Progress Detecting Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa

The three main countries APOPO operates in  — Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia —  are all considered high burden TB countries.

  • Tanzania: Tanzania has one of the highest TB burdens in the world at approximately 295 TB cases per 10,000 adults. With a poverty rate of 49.1%, almost half of Tanzanians are susceptible to TB’s spread. To help alleviate the effects of this disease, APOPO began in Tanzania in 2007 and has since expanded to 74 collaborating clinics across the country. A new testing facility in Dar es Salaam opened in 2016 and delivers results to clinics in 24 hours. Along with increasing accuracy, the APOPO facilities and rats boost the TB detection rate to around 35%.

  • Mozambique: After its success in Tanzania, in 2012 APOPO developed programs in Mozambique, where approximately 62.9% of the population lives in poverty. In partnership with Eduardo Mondlane University, APOPO built a new testing facility on the university’s grounds in Maputo. This center works with 20 local healthcare clinics and delivers results in 24 hours, which increases the probability of the patient starting treatment because it reduces the time and effort it takes to track down a patient to inform them of the results. Due to this partnership, the TB detection rate has increased by 53%.

  • Ethiopia: With a 30.8% poverty rate, Ethiopia ranks 10th for the highest TB burden in the world. To help identify these cases, APOPO is currently building a detection facility with the Armauer Hansen Research Institute. Additionally, this center will not only partner with clinics in Addis Ababa to test for TB, but will also screen up to 52,000 prison inmates and staff located in 35 prisons across Ethiopia. At the clinics, the goal is to increase identified TB cases by 35% while developing its program to create a long term impact in Ethiopia.

Armed with its innovative thinking — and its heroRATS — APOPO is making progress in detecting tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa and limiting its spread.

Zoë Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in TanzaniaAbout 36% of the 57 million people living in Tanzania fall below the poverty line. It is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Many impoverished countries deal with severely inadequate healthcare. However, Tanzania has recently experienced tremendous advances in healthcare. Overall better accessibility to healthcare improved death rates and diseases in Tanzania and even prompted innovative disease prevention. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tanzania.

6 Facts About Diseases in Tanzania

  1. Health access and quality have increased. Healthcare access and quality are essential for a prosperous community. When disease and illness go untreated, entire populations of people can be affected. Tanzania received a Healthcare Access and Quality Index rating of 33.9 in 2016 compared to 21.9 in 1990. Some of the factors contributing to this increase include a flourishing economy, increased education and foreign aid.
  2. Malnutrition has decreased by almost 10%. Although malnutrition is still one of the leading causes of death and disability in Tanzania, it has been declining since 2007. Malnutrition causes many diseases, especially in children. Malnutrition is detrimental to children’s cognitive growth and overall health. UNICEF is an organization working with the government and other local partners in Tanzania to improve child nutrition by implementing a food and nutrition policy.
  3. HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased drastically. As one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has prompted many years of advocacy and support from organizations and governments all around the world. As a result of these efforts, HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased tremendously in Tanzania. In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the number one leading cause of death in Tanzania, and by 2017, the death rate had declined by 75%.
  4. Only 15% of people in rural areas have improved sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of the spread of disease. Many impoverished communities struggle with combating diseases that spread through poor sanitation facilities. In rural Tanzania, about 85% of the population struggles with poor sanitation equipment, including toilets, showers and water sources for drinking. UNICEF implemented the Behaviour Change Communication approach which sets an example on effectively educating communities on embarrassing topics, such as personal hygiene. The work of UNICEF and local communities has helped prevent the rapid spread of disease through poor sanitation in the impoverished areas of Tanzania.
  5. Tuberculosis has a 90% treatment success rate. Even though tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, it has a high treatment success rate. One of the contributing factors to tuberculosis treatment success is the increase in accessible quality healthcare. Considering that the tuberculosis mortality rate is less than half of a 10th percent, treatment options for tuberculosis have successfully prevented many deaths related to this disease in Tanzania.
  6. Around 78% of households have an insecticide mosquito protective net. Transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is one of the leading causes of death in Tanzania. Preventative measures have been taken to decrease contact with mosquitoes, including the installation of the insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) in homes. These nets are safely treated with insecticide to block mosquitoes from entering. A more durable version of the ITN called a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN), has been produced. Both of these nets are recommended by WHO for malaria prevention.

Despite being one of the most impoverished countries in the world, Tanzania has made great advancements in its healthcare. Combating many of the issues that come with poverty, Tanzania has found innovative ways to combat disease. With the efforts of UNICEF and local community groups, Tanzania has decreased diseases that are caused by poor healthcare and malnutrition.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr