Child Poverty in Tanzania
In the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, Tanzania is one of the leading nations in development and reform. Since 2010, Tanzania’s economic indicators have held steadily above the average numbers of the rest of the region, boasting a positive GDP growth between 5% and 7% in the last 10 years. According to the World Bank’s 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment, poverty decreased by 8% in 10 years. Still, the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Bella Bird, urged the nation “to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction as the number of poor people remains high.” This article will assess child poverty in Tanzania and the efforts to eradicate it.

Better Planning, Better Counting

 In 2011, Tanzania committed itself to a series of national Five Year Development Plans (FYDP) to reach economic and human development goals by 2025. The Second Five Development Plan (FYDP II), 2016/17 – 2020/21, includes “poverty reduction” as a main focus. Tanzania’s overall positive economic performance results from a commitment to accurate assessment and careful planning that has welcomed newer and better ways to assess certain indicators, such as child poverty.

With the help of UNICEF, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published the Child Poverty in Tanzania report in 2019. This report assesses child poverty in Tanzania through the recently developed framework known as Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA), which “complements the traditional method of measuring poverty through the lens of a household’s aggregate income and consumption.” The report notes that MODA brings to focus the “importance in the wellbeing of a child during childhood” without losing sight of the monetary implications of poverty.

Multidimensional Child Poverty in Tanzania

The report defines “multidimensional child poverty” as a child who “suffers deprivation in three or more key dimensions of poverty: nutrition, health, protection, education, information, sanitation, water and housing.” The report further divides each dimension into indicators, thresholds and applicable ages. Using data from the 2014/15 National Panel Survey, this 2019 report provides an update on a previous report from 2016, and a clearer look at the issue of child poverty in Tanzania.

Below is a breakdown of each dimension, its indicators and the percentage of children (0-17 years old) deprived of each respective dimension.

  • Nutrition: The prevalence of stunting or wasting, body mass index (BMI) and dietary diversity – 30.1% of children deprived.
  • Health: Mother’s assisted delivery, antenatal care, support to a child with severe disability, malaria and diarrhea – 54.7% of children deprived.
  • Protection: Victim of crime, birth registration, early marriage and child labor – 86.4% of children deprived.
  • Water: Unimproved water and time to fetch water – 72.3% of children deprived.
  • Sanitation: Unsafe waste disposal, unsafe stool disposal and unimproved/shared sanitation – 91.1% of children deprived.
  • Housing: Inadequate floor/roof, overcrowding and solid cooking fuel – 88.8% of children deprived.
  • Education: Literacy, school enrolment, completed primary, pre-school enrolment and grade for age – 36.1% of children deprived.
  • Information: Communication device and access to information – 39.4% of children deprived.

The report concludes that a total of 88% of children in Tanzania are multidimensionally poor, meaning that they suffer from at least three deprivations above.

Higher Figures, Good or Bad?

According to the report, 19.5% of children live in monetary poverty, a much lower figure. Why, then, should Tanzania pay attention to the higher figure from the more complicated model? Working through the MODA methodology provides a more accurate look at the barriers that block Tanzanian children from participating in the semi-industrial future of their government’s goals.

Furthermore, this approach to understanding poverty highlights the importance of investing in programs that go beyond monetary solutions. While Tanzania has been successful in its cash-transfer programs, there may be a need to improve programs that tend to the non-monetary wellbeing of children should the country heed to Bird’s suggestions of speeding up the pace of progress.

USAID and Tanzania

Fortunately, Tanzania is not alone in the development and investment of such programs. USAID has recognized the need to empower the youth by increasing access to health care, water, nutrition and education, among other resources. Since the updated report in June 2019, USAID has developed two new programs that affect children directly: one in nutrition (30.1% of children deprived) and one in education (36.1% of children deprived).

Advancing Nutrition

Through the Advancing Nutrition activity, USAID works with Tanzanian authorities to support the implementation and further development of the National Multi-sectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP), initially set up in 2016 and due for a second iteration after June 2021. According to the midterm NMNAP report, Tanzania is on track to meet most of its goals from 2016.

Between 2014 and 2018:

  • Acute malnutrition in children 5-years-old and under has dropped from 3.8% to 3.5%.
  • The prevalence of overweight children under 5-years-old has dropped from 3.5% to 2.8%.
  • The proportion of children aged 0-5 months who are exclusively breastfed rose from 41% to 58%.
  • The proportion of children aged 6-23 months who received a minimum acceptable diet increased from 20% to 30%.

Hesabu Na Elimu Jumuishi (“Arithmetic and Inclusive Education”)

The second program developed after June 2019 for children revolves around education. The Arithmetic and Inclusive Education activity expands math instruction for young children and “addresses the need for inclusive education for children with disabilities.” According to the UNICEF report, around 48% of children 5-13 years old experience deprivation in the education dimension. This USAID activity will work directly to improve this indicator of multidimensional in child poverty in Tanzania.

Looking Ahead

Tanzanian leaders and international groups understand the need to develop more aggressive plans to tackle poverty. As the USAID Tanzania Activity Briefer notes in the “Better Policies” activity description: “a reduction in poverty slower than the economic growth rate implies that growth has not sufficiently reached those who are the most vulnerable.”

In the next two years, Tanzania’s development (FYDP) and nutrition (NMNAP) plans will be re-discussed and re-planned. Many of USAID’s programs in Tanzania will also soon reach a conclusion, such as the “Water Resources Integration Development Initiative” (WARIDI), which improves sanitation and water management while creating jobs (72.3% of children experience deprivation in the water dimension).

Through this new look at indicators of poverty, namely multidimensional child poverty, such programs along with the government now have a better understanding of how to allocate resources purposefully to address more directly the issue of child poverty in Tanzania.

– Luis Gonzalez Kompalic
Photo: Flickr