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| Last Updated:22/04/2014

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Tanzania: Saving Lives Through Proper Sanitation and Hygiene

allAfrica, 19 April 2014


SARAH Joseph, at a young age, has seen it all, poverty, disease and poor sanitation, she has become a regular at the local health facility.


The three year old child straddled on her back is weak and feeble, with body temperature running at a dangerous high, at 41.9 degrees, and she hopes that the medicine she has received will cure the child.


Doctors told her that the child suffers from acute diarrhoea, and some of the questions they asked her made her uncomfortable, because they wanted to know how they dispose of their waste at home.


When the first question was asked, she tried to imagine the situation at home, where the pit latrine they were using in the neighborhood had just collapsed, forcing them to rely on nearby bushes as their toilet.


Sanitation and proper hygiene are crucial to diarrhoea prevention. It is estimated that improved sanitation facilities can result in an average reduction in cases of diarrhoea of more than one-third.


Washing hands with soap has been found to reduce diarrhoea by more than 40%. Dodoma region in Tanzania, apart from being the capital city of the country, faces various challenges, and one of them is poor sanitation and lack of proper water services.


That is why the government decided to put focus in this region, specifically in three districts of Bahi, Chamwino and Kongwa, for a special program on proper sanitation.


Dodoma region has low water coverage and a high migratory population, and it was selected because it is one of the poorest regions in the country; has low sanitation coverage; with high under five mortality rate due to poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water supply.


The Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania (UMATA) Programme is a Global-Sanitation Funded (GSF) five year programme (2012-2017) that was designed by a group of sanitation and hygiene sector stakeholders led by the Government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.


It was established with the overall goal of seeing 'Communities with increased access to and use of improved sanitation facilities and changed sanitation and hygiene behaviours at scale' in the three districts.


With five million dollars worth, Plan International Tanzania was selected to be the programme's executing agency receiving the grant by GSF and manages the programme through support from six implementing partners (sub-grantees).


As part of these efforts, UMATA programme has engaged a consultant to conduct a baseline survey to assess the status of sanitation and hygiene in the three districts where the programme is being implemented.


"Proper sanitation facilities (for example, toilets and latrines) promote health because they allow people to dispose of their waste appropriately," says Nyanzobe Malimi, the Plan International Programme Director, National Sanitation and Hygiene Programme Global Sanitation Funded Programme.


She says that throughout the developing world, many people do not have access to suitable sanitation facilities, resulting in improper waste disposal.


According to the latest estimates of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), released in early 2013 (collected in 2011), 36 per cent of the world's population - 2.5 billion people - lack improved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources.


Miss Malimi says that inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kill and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.


"The people were keen to be trained to build toilets and to learn how to promote hygienic behaviour, such as hand washing at critical times and disposing of their rubbish," she says.


Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. Children - and particularly girls - are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities.


According to Doctor James Charles, the Chamwino District Medical Officer, 40 to 60 per cent of diseases are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene. He says that with the government working closely with various stakeholders in the area, the five million dollar grant will go a long way in solving the problem of poor sanitation. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water.


Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Diarrhoea, says Dr Charles, is the second leading cause of death among children under five in the world.


Around 1.5 million deaths each year - nearly one in five - are caused by diarrhoea. It kills more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined. Halving the proportion of those globally without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation by 2015 is estimated to result in 272 million more school attendance days a year.


The value of deaths averted, based on discounted future earnings, would amount to US$ 3.6 billion a year Only 63 per cent of the world's population has access to improved sanitation - defined as a sanitation facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.


The programmatic focus is on the Dodoma region, which has low water coverage and a high migratory population. Dodoma was selected because it is one of the poorest regions in the country; has low sanitation coverage; with high under five mortality rate due to poor sanitation, hygiene and unsafe water supply.


Unlike in neighbouring countries, open defecation in Tanzania is not common, as many people have basic latrines.


However, many latrines are either unused or unhygienic, as highlighted by a recent baseline district data which revealed that only 28 per cent of the rural population has access to improved sanitation and less than 25 per cent of the total population is estimated to have a designated place for hand washing with soap.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70 per cent of the diseases in Tanzania are caused by poor access to safe water and hygienic sanitation services, and it is estimated that these cost Tanzania close to US$ 600 million annually.