The remote Nyarugusu refugee camp in Western Tanzania has seen a sharp rise in child refugees from the neighboring country to the east. Children have been flooding over the border to escape violence surrounding the recent elections in Burundi.

The amount of Burundian child refugees arriving to the camp increased from about 1600 at the end of May to approximately 2600 by July 19th.

The children are not just arriving in larger numbers according to Lisa Parrott, interim country manager of Save the Children Tanzania, but they are also reaching the camp in much worse shape physically and mentally, most having walked for days with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no food or water. Many have witnessed atrocious acts of violence in their homes and along the way to Tanzania. Some of the children have even seen their own parents or other family members murdered by militia.

On July 21 2015, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunzizain won re-election after running for a third term. In the wake, violence erupted and gunfire rang out. These elections had been hotly protested with President Pierre Nkurunzizain’s opposition claiming that he was not eligible to run again. After the elections, the opposition boycotted the vote and fighting in the country intensified.

The child refugees arriving at the Nyarugusu refugee camp are not eating properly and are having terrible problems sleeping and interacting with others. About a fifth are infants with severe signs of malnutrition, anemia, malaria, diarrhea and other conditions.

The Nyarugusu camp has become one of the biggest settlements in the world comprised of mostly the Congolese who have lived in the camp since the 1990s. At 60,000 people, the already overcrowded camp has more than doubled with almost 80,000 Burundians entering over the years and the recent influx of children has only made the camp more strained.

The overflow of the population is being housed in churches and schools, causing fears that schools will not be able to operate, starving more children of a valuable education. Competition for resources such as food rations, shelter, cooking facilities and firewood, clothing, health care, and clean water intensifies every day with tensions running high.

Save the Children, an organization working in developing nations to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives, believes that every child has the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Save the Children is on the ground in Tanzania and, with the help of local partners, are setting up child health services such as constructing Temporary Learning Centers (TLC) and creating Child Friendly Places (CFP), expected to reach 1200 children.

Life in refugee camps like Nyarugusu is difficult for thousands of people already mired in extreme poverty, but with groups like Save the Children, those seeking refuge from increasing violence in surrounding communities can find some relief and access to basic human needs.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: Save the Children, Reuters
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania-Child-Survival-GoalMillennium Development Goal 4: “Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.”

Tanzania is one of the only African countries that has achieved this goal. There is much to celebrate with the country’s accomplishment; however, we must not ignore other critical areas of work that need prioritization. A thorough analysis of the efforts in Tanzania is important to understand what strategies have been effective in the region.

Successes in Tanzania

  • Reduction in child deaths after first month of life
  • 12,500 lives saved thanks to vaccines
  • 9,300 lives saved from malaria programs
  • 5,800 lives saved from HIV/AIDS programs

Areas for Improvement

  • Maternal and newborn survival can be improved
  • Reduction of stillbirths needed
  • Low contraceptive use in Western and Lake Zones
  • Rural poor lack access to health services
  • Shortage of health workers

The achievement of MDG4 is significant in Tanzania. Child deaths after one month of life have decreased at a rate of 8 percent per year during the last decade. This is 50 percent faster than in the 1990s.

Most lives have been saved from programs that increase access to vaccines, address malaria and work to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. These types of programs have received the most funding, and therefore these results should be expected.

In Tanzania, 40 percent of national child deaths are newborns. This indicates a need to improve health services in the critical time surrounding childbirth.

Rural women are twice as likely to deliver their children in private homes versus health facilities. Estimates indicate that Tanzania needs 23 health workers per 10,000 people, but Tanzania currently only has five health workers per 10,000 people.

It is evident that portions of the population have not benefitted from some of the improvements Tanzania has experienced as a country. The identification of these categories of people is critical in order to further decrease mortality rates in the country.

High mortality rates slow the rate of development of entire communities and prevent poverty-stricken families from obtaining enough resources to support themselves.

The good news is that this case study of Tanzania estimates that “60,000 lives could be saved each year with intensified efforts to achieve universal access to essential health services.”

Iliana Lang

Sources: WHO, The Lancet, UNDP
Photo: Global Post

As of 2013, around 738 million people across the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Of these people, an approximate 8 million die as a consequence of this inaccessibility.

Water is the paramount need for all human being. Sanitation of this water is vital for preventing many water-borne diseases that can potentially be fatal. Despite the development of new methodologies to sanitize water, the process of chlorination remains unparalleled in its prevalence and efficiency.

The process of chlorination, as the name suggests, uses chlorine gas or bleach to purify water. Chlorine gas is highly toxic and an effective antimicrobial agent. Chlorine also remains in water through longer periods of time than its alternatives. This reduces the costs of repeated purifications.

Despite these advantages that put chlorination far ahead of its counterpart purification methods, it is still difficult to successfully utilize this technique in developing countries. Chlorine gas and its derivatives – such as bleach – are highly reactive and can be dangerous in excessive quantities. The chlorine gas is sold compressed in cylinders, and its pressure requirements change in accordance with the water source to be chlorinated. Hydraulic equipment necessary for safe chlorination is not always accessible in remote areas.

These safety considerations pose a dilemma for the safe sanitation of drinking water. Recently, Mountain Safety Research (MSR), an outdoor gear manufacturer, collaborated with an NGO to release an innovative solution to the problem.

Their device, Smart Electrochlorinator or SE200, uses saltwater and a car battery to produce a carefully-calculated amount of chlorine gas. It consists of a canister that attaches to a battery through jumper cables. The canister is filled with salt solution, and the dissolved salt is dissociated into ionic chloride ions.

The ions are then converted into bleach electrochemically. The hydrogen gas produced from the battery reacts with the chloride ions to form perchlorate, or bleach. The added advantage of the device is in its specificity – it is designed to calculate and produce specific amounts of chlorine per gallon of water. This maintains the concentration of chlorine in water at a constant level and within safe ranges.

The chlorinator is lightweight and portable, which is important in smaller remote areas. It can purify up to 20 liters in a meager 5 minute interval. The device is also notably energy efficient: a 12 volt battery can be used to generate enough chlorine to purify 400,000 liters of water.

The device has so far been tested successfully in field operations in Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Thailand. It is especially noted for its feasibility in small population communities, where large-scale sanitation does not reach and household purification is a hassle. The chlorination is relatively inexpensive as well: at around US$200, it can provide a clean supply of water for 200 people for a period of five years.

As with any new technology, there are issues with this device as well. As it is designed for use in remote areas, it is questionable as to how technical issues might be dealt with. Any of the maintenance issues needing to be fixed can seriously jeopardize a steady supply of clean water. Moreover, in spite of pictorial instructions, there is always the danger for misuse. These are some of the issues that need to be fine-tuned for the chlorinator’s effective usage.

Despite the issues that need to be resolved, the chlorinator is undoubtedly an innovative initiative in the provision of clean drinking water to each and every human being in the world.

– Atifah Safi

Sources: CDC 1, NPR, Cascade Designs, CDC 2
Photo: Flickr

For millions of people around the world, irrigation has provided a means of subsistence and economic opportunity in the form of small-scale farming operations. But for rural farmers in Tanzania’s agriculture-intensive regions, irrigation policy has become a source of controversy and economic uncertainty.

The most recent controversy was born out of the Tanzanian government’s plans to ban economic activity, including small-scale farming operations, from taking place near reservoirs and other “listed water resources.” The ban is an attempt to reduce competition for water in reaction to a recent drought-induced hydropower shortage.

The recent drought has struck a major blow to the country’s national power grid, 57 percent of which is generated by hydropower. The drought alone has been devastating for Tanzanian agriculture: of the country’s 29.4 million hectares of irrigable land, under 600,000 are currently being irrigated. Combined with the government’s recent ban on reservoir-sourced irrigation, many farmers face the prospects of lost livelihoods.

“I have been farming in this area all my life,” said Eliudi Samizi, a rice farmer who relies on irrigation from the Great Ruaha River. “If someone asks me to stop fishing or farming, what else can I do to feed my family?”

The government’s decision to limit water usage is a reaction to state-run power company TANESCO’s request to evict local communities that it claims overuse the water resources near its hydropower plants. Last year, President Jakaya Kikwete called for the eviction of farmers in the Uluguru region, reversing a decision made six years ago during a similarly problematic period.

While bans on irrigation have been temporary in recent years, TANESCO’s request would make those bans permanent, resulting in total uncertainty regarding the future income of Tanzanian farmers.

In 2006, farmers were threatened with eviction from the Uluguru Mountain, having been accused of damaging the environment and threatening the availability of urban water. They were allowed to stay only after an appeal to President Kikwete, but today their future remains uncertain, as demonstrated by the government’s recent compliance with eviction efforts from private investors and entities like TANESCO.

According to Elizabeth Harrison and Anna Mdee, development researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Bradford, these policy proposals are part of a broader trend throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, one that has seen the prioritization of large-scale commercial operations at the expense of small-scale communities.

“The politics of irrigation development in Tanzania sadly mirrors this: the favouring of large schemes that attract significant donor support, coupled with the problems of managing this at a local level,” they wrote in an article for The Guardian. “Unfortunately for farmers like those in Choma, it seems that no matter how significant the social or economic benefits of their less formal practices, the politics is likely to continue to lead to them being dismissed by those in authority.”

Indeed, large-scale operations driven by private investment are often sold on the claim that they will serve to benefit the most vulnerable Tanzanian farmers. But a recent resettlement process led by KPL, a subsidiary of British-based agribusiness giant Agrica, resulted in the displacement of 230 farmers, many of whom were vastly undercompensated. Some were given merely $17 per acre, a fraction of the $600 for which an acre can be purchased in neighboring Zambia.

“When they came here, they told me that if I provided land for KPL they would build me a new house,” said a villager from Tanzania’s Kilombero District. “But they did not do that; they just threw us out of there and gave us a little money in order to survive.”

Millions of dollars of aid contributed by countries like England and the United States continues to subsidize corporate investment in operations like that outlined above. The current politicization of irrigation in Tanzania represents an opportunity to alter the flow of aid in favor of operations that will prioritize the well being of the small-scale farmers whom donors claim to help. It also provides an opportunity for investment in renewable energy alternatives, like the Lake Turkina Wind Project in Kenya, which would relieve Tanzania’s allocation of water to its national power grid. Until that happens, rural farmers will continue to face economic uncertainty at the hands of corporate interests.

Zach VeShancey

Sources: The Guardian, News 24, Reuters, New Internationalist
Photo: The Guardian


Albinism, a rare congenital disorder which presents itself in the form of a partial or complete absence of melanin production, results in pigment-less eyes, hair and skin. An estimated 1 in every 17,000 to 20,000 people in North America and Europe live with albinism. However, cases of albinism on the African continent, with 1 in every 5,000 to 15,000 people, appear with more prevalence.

The majority of cases are seen in the East African country of Tanzania. Under the Same Sun (UTSS), an organization committed to assuring the rights of people with albinism, reports a prevalence of 1 in 1,400 cases of albinism and 1 in 19 cases of carriers, meaning there are over 33,000 persons with albinism in Tanzania alone.

This population lives under constant threat, as people with albinism face slaughter and dismemberment. Their body parts, suspected to bring luck or riches, are used in witchcraft. A full “set” of body parts, four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose, can bring the seller upwards of $75,000 in the black market.

There have been eight reported cases of mutilation in Tanzania since autumn 2015. More than 200 similar cases were reported to the United Nations from 2000 to 2013.

In a May 13, 2015 interview with The Guardian, Don Sawatzky, director of operations at UTSS, states that no one really knows the exact source of these killings. since documentation was not as historically prevalent in Africa. However, many still connect the rise in deaths to the 2015 elections, placing blame on politicians who allegedly seek out “seers” who use albino body parts to predict the future. Others point to the rise in food prices as the cause, leaving many desperate to make money with no regard for consequence.

Recent collaborative efforts between the Tanzanian government, civil society and nongovernmental organizations have proved beneficial. The community’s perception of people with albinism is slowly changing. Additionally, cases in which people with albinism were killed are now being taken seriously, and the government has begun to prosecute and convict those responsible.

At the community level, these changes will not come about easily, but with the international community’s backing and advocacy, this shift in perception has greater potential.

On June 13, 2013, the United Nations adopted the first resolution in its history on albinism, guaranteeing the rights and acknowledging the plight and discrimination of those who live with albinism. More recently, with the help of UTSS, the United Nations welcomed the observance of June 13 as International Albinism Awareness Day to be celebrated for the first time in 2015.

Many remain hopeful that violence against people with albinism will one day be nonexistent. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, affirmed that “people with albinism are just as deserving of dignity as every other human being.” He adds, “They have the right to live free from discrimination, deprivation and fear.”

– Jaime Longoria

Sources: The GuardianWashington Post
Photo: The Telegraph

Tanzania has some of the most talented artisans and technicians, but we use very old, outdated equipment, mostly from Italy, from the 1960s and ‘70s,” said Dotto Said, the supervisor at Yasir Ahmed a shop that makes windows, doors and gates.

Yet using outdated tools or “sawdust piled ankle deep” are not the biggest problems facing Tanzanians and Africans as a whole. Electricity has been identified, by many Africans, as the single biggest inhibitor of its success. Alex Adrian, a carpenter at Yasir Ahmed said. “All we need Obama [sic] to help us with is a reliable supply of electricity.”

While the President has made several trips to Africa, once to pledge 7 billion dollars to the energy relief fund, Tanzanians like Said and Adrian would like to be able to turn to themselves for help. Relief of this kind has come in the form of Helvetic Solar, a Tanzanian-based company whose goal is to supply solar panels to all those looking for electricity across Africa.

“The electrification issue was a major one and I just figured out that Tanzanians might be receptive to an alternative energy source,” said owner of Helvetic Solar, Patrick Ngowi. He discovered a love of solar power on one of his many trips to China. At this time, only 10 percent of Tanzania was on a power grid. Most companies, wealthy families and government agencies relied on generators.

In the beginning the idea struggled, but in 2007 the word spread of the benefits and Ngowi was contacted by several government, non-government agencies, and multi-national corporations to install solar panels. His company grossed 6.8 million dollars in 2012.

For a country whose GDP is low and poverty so high, is it even economically feasible for this country to convert to solar power? Forbes broke the numbers down and found it was economically more sound to install solar panels in Tanzania than Oregon. The average homeowner in Oregon will take anywhere from 15-27 years to recoup the initial investment solar panels require. This is due to a very large electrical grid already providing relatively cheap power.

When you take the same principles, apply them to Tanzania and compare the cost of fuel to run a generator in rural Tanzania to the initial cost of solar power, one find that Tanzanians can recoup their losses well enough to sell their generators.

Giant leaps in innovation like this have helped several in rural Tanzania. Lusela Murandika, a 76-year-old farmer who lives in Kanyala village in northern Tanzania, installed his solar panels for a little over 400 dollars. Murandika said that the hardest part was installation. He now runs a small side business, earning 12 cents for every cell phone he charges. Edward Buta, a solar power shop dealer, said business is booming in the Tanzanian town of Katoro. Electricity is slowly inching across Africa, but until the grid makes it into the outskirts solar power will continue to be king.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: Mother Jones, NY Times, Forbes 1, Forbes 2
Photo: Face2Face Africa

At a meeting hosted by the Zoological Society of London, four African leaders vowed their countries would prohibit the sale of ivory for 10 years.

Prince Charles and The Duke of Cambridge also attended the gathering, which sought to “find new ways to protect animals and reduce demand for wildlife products,” according to BBC News.

The leaders of Gabon, Chad, Botswana and Tanzania said, “they will not act on an option to sell from their ivory stockpiles, in an effort to protect elephants.”

The ivory trade involves the poaching of animals such as elephants and rhinos for their ivory tusks. The BBC claims most of the practice takes place in Africa to satisfy the large demand from Asia.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) claims 23 metric tons of ivory, which is equivalent to 2,500 elephants, “was seized in the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory in 2011.” Moreover, between 2007 and 2012, South Africa has seen a 5,000 percent increase of rhino poaching, “with over 900 rhinos poached in 2013 alone.”

The organization also claims that wildlife crime is worth $19 billion per year and is as dangerous as other black forms of illegal trade.

But why do people join the black market for ivory in the first place? The WWF suggests that people in many countries gained an interest in a “variety of seafoods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles.”

However, this only explains the demand side of an ivory transaction. By understanding the context of the African nations involved in the ivory trade, it is clear that people slaughter animals for reasons other than simply trying to be evil.

Thus, the WWF also believes that “extreme poverty means some people see wildlife as valuable barter for trade.” As a result, individuals exploit the corruption and weak judicial systems in their poor homelands that enable the illegal trade of ivory.

In other words, those who are involved in the killings of defenseless rhinos and elephants for their ivory are simply trying to survive. If the international community wishes to see and end to the ivory trade, it needs to provide more aid to African nations struggling with poverty.

– Juan Campos

Sources: BBC, WWF
Photo: All Africa

Tujijenge Tanzania is a microfinance company based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Founded in 2006, the organization is both the largest and fastest growing microfinance institution (MFI) in Tanzania. Broadly speaking, MFIs are companies that provide financial services to low-income individuals, or that provide services in areas without access to “typical” banking. They operate off of the idea that poverty-stricken individuals can remedy their own situation if given access to financial services.

Today, Tujijenge Tanzania is part of the larger, not-for-profit company Tujijenge Afrika, a Swahili name that roughly translates to mean “let’s build ourselves, Africa.” The company was founded by six microfinance practitioners, who now serve on its board of directors. The founders sought to remedy a problem that they observed in African society by employing their own skills. That is, 90 percent of the country does not have access to financial services. They saw that few MFIs existed, forcing residents to rely on expensive banking alternatives that perpetuated a lifestyle of poverty.

Tujijenge Tanzania aims to provide financial help to individuals, both men and women, who are engaged in all manner of small businesses, ranging from stationery shops to restaurants. The company operates by sending Loan Officers into local communities to give presentations about their services. Interested individuals then form groups of up to 35 members and receive four weeks of training from the Loan Officers. This includes instruction on lending methodology and creating viable business plans. During this period, the group must satisfy several requirements, including electing leaders and opening an account with a commercial bank (the company partners with both Bank of America and Kenya Commercial Bank).

Furthermore, every member is required to save 20 percent of the expected amount of the loan during this training period. This serves the dual purpose of teaching the discipline of making weekly payments, as well as demonstrating that the individual is engaged in a serious, capital-generating business. Upon completion of the training period, if all requirements have been met, the group can make a formal application for a loan. After receiving the money, the group will continue to meet every week, both to make repayments and to discuss general business issues and practices.

Beyond making loans to small business owners, the company is also engaged in a wide variety of product development. Currently, Tujijenge Tanzania is in the process of developing a mobile banking solution for their clients to help serve those in less accessible areas.

In the past, they have developed both solar loan and agricultural loan models in collaboration with organizations such as Oxfam. They have also engaged in market research in the promotion of medical and life insurance all around Africa.

– Rebecca Beyer
Feature Writer

Sources: Tujijenge Afrika, KIVA

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals that thousands of Tanzanian children—some as young as eight years old—are working illegally in many of the country’s unlicensed gold mines. Despite laws that prohibit child labor, the young miners venture deep underground to drill, dig and transport gold to the surface. In addition to the risk children have from accidents and mine collapses they  also face long-term health issues from exposure to mercury and mine dust.

In most cases, poverty induces the children to seek work in the mines. With the money that they earn from their work, most kids say they purchase necessities such as food, clothes, rent and school supplies. Child labor is used in many other sectors of Tanzania’s economy, including agriculture, domestic work and fishing. In 2006, a government survey revealed that almost twenty percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in some form of labor.

In 2009, Tanzania developed a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor. According to the Plan, the following factors contribute to Tanzania’s child labor problem: poverty, access to education and employment, and weak enforcement of social protections and labor laws. Though measures have been enacted to reduce child labor, there is no evidence to suggest that there has been a reduction in the number of children employed by small and unlicensed gold mines.

Tanzania is the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world. The mining process begins by digging the ore out of the ground and carrying it to a processing area where it is crushed and sluiced. To separate the gold from other rocks and minerals, miners use liquid mercury, which attracts and amalgamates the gold particles. The final step is to heat the amalgam, which evaporates the mercury and leaves the pure gold.

Beyond the obvious dangers associated with underground mining, long-term exposure to mercury presents a serious health hazard. Mercury exposure adversely affects the central nervous system, causing sensory impairment, lack of coordination, memory loss and tremors. Mercury poisoning concerns not only the Tanzanian child miners but also people in surrounding villages as vapors and byproducts enter the atmosphere and groundwater.

The Tanzanian government is aware of child labor abuses in these unlicensed gold mines. With international organizations like Human Rights Watch casting light on the issue, pressure to curb the abuses is likely to increase. But unless economic conditions change for people in rural areas, it will be difficult to thwart the need to survive.

One man who was interviewed by Human Rights Watch told the organization, “There is no way out… this is how we survive.” Nearby, the man’s daughter was playing in the ashy remains of what was once the mercury-gold amalgam.

— Daniel Bonasso

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Reuters, The Guardian

In Tanzania, an entire industry is proliferated largely by children: small-scale gold mining. Thousands of children, some as young as eight, spend their days digging in pits—most of which are highly dangerous. Others carry weighty bags of gold ore, and then crush it into a powder. Some even process the gold with toxic mercury, a highly noxious substance that has devastating effects on one’s health.

In a Human Rights Watch interview with local Tanzanian gold traders, who sell to other traders and exporters, they explained the commonality of buying from children. One trader stated, “I buy from anyone and I sell to anyone.”

While child labor in the mines is legally forbidden for children under 18, the Tanzanian government has done little to enforce these prohibitions. Labor—and mining in particular—poses serious dangers to children. All facets of the gold industry, including consumers, must stop supporting these highly illegal and dangerous practices, which consistently place Tanzania’s children in peril.

Domestic traders and international companies should initiate policies in order to eliminate child labor. Regular visits should be organized to all mines to ensure the absence of child workers. Human rights must take precedence in order to transform the gold mining industry into an ethical one, an industry that respects the rights of Tanzania’s children.

Anna Purcell

Sources: Deutsche Welle, Human Rights Watch