The East African country of Tanzania is one of the largest nations on the continent. Despite a population of more than 58 million, Tanzania has reported fewer than 600 COVID-19 cases and just 21 deaths as of July 22, 2021. However, widespread denial of the gravity of the virus is making COVID-19 in Tanzania more dangerous. While Tanzania has experienced minimal physical health impacts of COVID-19 in contrast to other countries, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Tanzania has been harsh as the virus has slowed overall economic growth.
Tanzania’s COVID-19 Response
On March 16, 2020, Tanzania reported its first case of COVID-19. Months later, in April, the country’s bustling region of Tanga also reported its first case. To help prevent the further spread of the virus, the government in Tanga began working with the CDC to train health professionals “on case investigation, contact tracing, home and community isolation, quarantine, infection prevention control (IPC) and case management,” providing a strategy to respond to new cases.
Furthermore, the CDC aided Tanzania in hiring and training drug dispensaries to monitor the number of people looking for COVID-19 treatment. This allowed pharmacists to watch out for probable cases in their communities in order to ramp up precautions and prevent the spread of the disease. In total, the CDC helped train 116 healthcare personnel in COVID-19 response strategies, “creating a holistic, community response to detect and respond to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Unreported Cases and COVID-19 Denial
On the surface, Tanzania has done an exceptional job preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, a few less discussed issues have prevented the country from fully recovering. For instance, in June 2020, the country’s then-president, John Magufuli, stopped reporting COVID-19 data, claiming that the country was virus-free even though Tanzania had already reported 509 cases and 21 deaths. Magufuli asserted that a “three-day prayer had saved the country.” Similarly, the secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mabula Mchembe, disregarded accusations that the country’s denial of the virus was only causing more deaths. Overall, the Tanzanian government has “downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic.”
A New President Brings Hope
When the former president passed away on March 17, 2021, President Samia Suluhu Hassan replaced him as the first female president of the country. The mark of Hassan’s presidency also marked the release of Tanzania’s official COVID-19 statistics after “more than a year.” Hassan confirmed 100 new COVID-19 cases since the third wave of COVID-19 began in Tanzania. Bringing hope to Tanzania, President Hassan also allotted $470 million for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, helping the country’s citizens protect themselves from the virus.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Tanzania
Tanzania has made significant progress in tackling COVID-19, but the pandemic has still worsened poverty in the country. Due to the extensive measures put in place to track the virus, including quarantine and lockdowns, roughly 140,000 formal jobs were lost in June 2020 alone. In addition, 2.2 million “nonfarm informal workers” experienced loss of income. Similarly, the poverty rate increased from 26.1% in 2019 to 27.2% by the end of 2020.
In 2021, however, Tanzania’s economic outlook is much different. In fact, Tanzania’s GDP is projected to rise by up to 5.3% this year due to President Hassan’s COVID-19 programs and vaccine distribution plan. President Hassan has promised to improve infrastructure and resource management, reflecting a vision of future economic growth in the country. As Tanzania moves in a more transparent and positive direction, hope is on the horizon for overall poverty reduction and economic growth.
– Calvin Franke