The vision of an economically prosperous Tanzania can only be achieved if children grow up healthy, well nourished, well-educated and protected from violence abuse and exploitation.
Every country that has made the breakthrough to middle-income status has made significant investments in children. Investing in children today in better education, improved health care and protection from violence and abuse, pays dividends resulting in stronger economies, reduced crime and healthier families. Tremendous advances can be achieved by mobilizing communities, increasing accountability and transparency, and by ensuring the Law of the Child is fully applied to protect children. Overall, better use of available resources to improve critical services and boost opportunities for children will ensure more families move out of poverty.
Tanzania has a population of about 50 million people, half of whom are children (under the age of 18 years.) The population is predominantly rural – 75% of the population lives in rural areas and mainly earns a living from small-scale, rain-fed farming. Poverty is pervasive, especially in rural areas. About 33.6% of the households in Mainland Tanzania live under a basic needs poverty line which is well under $1 per day and about 16.6% live below the food poverty line and can be considered as extreme poor (URT,2007a).
Most Tanzanians living in poverty are children. Poverty denies children their rights. It weakens a child’s protective environment – much abuse and exploitation of children is linked to widespread and deeply entrenched poverty. Poverty is transmitted from one generation to the next. Impoverished, malnourished mothers, for example, often give birth to under-weight babies. These babies are more likely to die and, if they do survive, they are less likely to grow and develop to their full potential. Chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illness can lead to poor school performance. Consequently, children from poor households are more likely to drop out of school early and work at occupations below the poverty line, if they manage to find work at all.
Since the foundation of an individual’s health and well-being is laid in childhood, the most opportune time to break the cycle of poverty, or prevent it from beginning, is during that time.
Public investment in social services brings improvement of child wellbeing. In Tanzania, investment in the distribution of insecticide treated bed nets, better drugs for malaria, immunization and Vitamin A supplements has contributed to a major decline in the under-five mortality rate. Investment in primary education has raised literacy levels. Evidence from several countries shows that public investment in early childhood development (ECD), as well as universal education, stimulates and improves economic growth.
Evidence shows that investing in ECD, in particular, positively affects physical and mental health and wellbeing later in life and positively influences future productivity. Educating girls in particular can reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, reduce mortality and morbidity rates and contribute to the development of a healthier society.
Overall, investing in children improves long-term economic competitiveness and the quality and productivity of labour in a society, and leads to a reduction in poverty. It is also right in principle. It is an obligation for all states that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and essential in order for Tanzania to meet its core international commitments and implement its national laws, including the Law of the Child.
There has been a 25 percent drop in child mortality and we are making good progress towards the child survival Millennium Development Goal. Even so, more than 445 children under 5 years die every day— and over 140 are less than one month old.* Every hour a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Investing in affordable solutions will save thousands of lives.
o All households receive long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets to reduce malaria,
o All children are protected from vaccine –preventable diseases,
o All parents know how to treat killer-diseases like diarrhea with ORS and zinc.
o All parents know about the importance of giving nothing but breast-milk to babies until they are six months old.
More than a third of Tanzanian children do not reach their physical and mental potential because of malnutrition. Malnutrition is a cause in more than one third of child deaths—over 40,000 Tanzanian children under-five will die in 2010 from causes related to malnutrition. The most damage is inflicted during pregnancy and in the first two years of a child’s life and action must therefore focus on this period of life. Good nutrition in children and women is essential for a strong economy. The new focus on agricultural development has opened an opportunity for nutrition to be placed at the heart of Tanzanian progress.
Four out of five schools have no functioning hand-washing facilities. Many schools have more than 50 pupils per toilet. Three out of five schools have no on-site water supply. Many health facilities are in a similar critical situation. Improving hygiene and sanitation in schools will reduce illness, improve attendance and help to ensure more children, especially girls, complete their education. Water supplies and toilets in health facilities are vital for reducing infections and saving lives.
Early childhood programmes are at the forefront in the fight against poverty. Children from the poorest communities are at greater risk of disease and malnutrition and do less well in school. Early childhood programmes focused on the poorest families help parents to provide a better start for their children and help close the gap between rich and poor. Investments in early childhood give a seven-fold return and are much more cost-efficient than investing in remedial programmes later in a child’s life.
Only just over half of students pass the primary school leaving exam. Less than one in ten students in rural areas enrol in secondary school. Well-educated school leavers are essential for sound economic development. The national in-service teacher training programme can reverse currently dismal school results. Active learning in the classroom will improve student-teacher relations and motivate more students to complete their education.
Schools must be safe-havens for children. Too many experience fear, humiliation and beatings that undermine their ability to learn and leads many children to drop-out early. Integrating and expanding sport in schools can help reduce violence, and improve discipline, student-teacher relations and school attendance among other benefits.
Important advances have been achieved in reducing HIV prevalence. Yet one in every ten new infections occurs in babies even though more than 90 per cent of these infections could be prevented. Girls are also much more vulnerable to HIV infection than boys. Every new infection in a teenager represents a failure to provide a young person with the necessary knowledge, information, skills and services that will enable them to protect themselves. Stigma and discrimination continues to undermine women’s access to services.
In 2010, over 6,000 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy and the number seems to be growing every year. Early pregnancy endangers both the young mothers and their infants. Reducing pregnancy and ensuring the rights of all girls to education is vital in the fight against poverty.
Sexual, physical and emotional violence is common for most children growing up in Tanzania. One in three girls and one in seven boys experience at least one incidence of sexual violence before turning eighteen. Rates of physical violence are higher, 72% of girls and 71% of boys experience being punched, whipped, kicked, or threatened with a weapon like a gun or knife at least once over their childhood. One quarter of all Tanzanian children are emotionally abused. The structures and systems to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation are either weak, under resourced or non-existent in Tanzania.
o Family-based support for children living in poverty that will help reduce exploitation of children in hazardous labour and commercial sex work and minimize institutionalization of children.
o Specialist services that are needed to both prevent and respond to child abuse. This includes sufficient qualified social workers and counselors which is essential to assist children who have experienced violence.
The majority of children with disabilities are denied their right to education. Too many are locked away and kept in inhuman conditions.