Friday, September 27, 2013

It's That Time of Year Again

Nope, not the holiday season just yet, but Fall is indeed falling in NYC which means the United Nations General Assembly has convened.  In an article from yesterday's Guardian titled "JK Confident Tanzania Will Achieve Most MDGs," the Tanzanian president downloaded his views on the state of the nation (TZ) and his thoughts for the future.

IMO, he's a little overly optimistic regarding the timeline of events, and a touch quick to say that the reason TZ won't make some of the other goals is due to donor lagging, but at least it seems things are headed in the right direction, particularly in the area of malaria prevention, care, and treatment.  Check it out.

At the ongoing UN conference in New York on Tuesday, President Jakaya Kikwete said that despite delays experienced in the disbursement of funds by development partners, Tanzania will achieve five out of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

"Tanzania will achieve the second goal of universal primary education, which notes that all children must be enrolled in schools, the fourth that concerns the reduction of child mortality, the sixth of combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, and part of the seventh goal which is about clean water provision," he said.

He hastened to add, "The third goal that focuses on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women including their equal representation in Parliament and an equal number of boys and girls in primary and secondary schools and tertiary education can also achieved by 2015."

However, he said that due to slow progress by development partners to dish out funds, the country's implementation reports indicate that Tanzania is not likely to achieve at least three of the goals.  "We have taken major steps and put more effort on this but it is necessary that we increase the speed of implementing some of the projects in the remaining two years."

"Generally, the MDG implementation report in Tanzania shows that it is impossible to meet three goals which include the first that concerns the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the fifth that talks about improving maternal and child health and the seventh that speaks about sustainable environment."
Organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, the conference focuses on how to speed up the implementation of MDGs.

Among those who attended the conference on Tuesday were UNDP Director Hellen Clark, World Bank President Jim Kim, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Ghanaian President John Mahama, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, and Tonga Prime Minister Lord Siale'ataongo Tu'ivakano.

MDGs have been implemented in poor countries since 2001 with the aim of transforming the economies into middle income nations.

Meanwhile, President Kikwete applauded the United Nations for its efforts in the fight against malaria which have born fruits – the reduction in malaria cases is expected to reach 25% in the world and 33% in Africa in the coming ten years.

Still, despite the tremendous achievements recorded in Africa in general and Tanzania in particular, malaria still claims at least 650,000 lives every year in Tanzania.

"Our main challenge is how to make these achievements sustainable and deal with the remaining goals....Malaria cases were reduced by 18% among under-five children by 2007, and between 2007 and 2012, the cases were reduced further by 50%.  In Zanzibar, we are in a transitional period towards completely eradicating the problem.  I take this opportunity to thank the donors for their help which has taken us to where we are now."

Nonetheless, he warned that this is the third time the island has reached the point of eradicating malaria but the scourge keeps recurring.  Investigations have shown that it is still being transmitted from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar.

Worldwide, malaria continues to threatens at least 3.3 billion people and, on the African continent, at least one child dies every minute.

President Kikwete is currently on an official visit to the United States and is among the leaders attending the United Nations General Council.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Can You Hear Us Now?

Last week, I gave mad props to the ladies of the Tee-Zed, but this week I'm giving them to the kiddies.  Again, outta the Tanzania Daily News earlier this month, there was an article that caught my roving eye.  It was titled "Children with Disabilities in Kagera Form Own Council" and concerns a group of deaf children living in the northwestern region of the country.  Check it out.


Children with disabilities in Kagera region have formed their own council and elected office bearers.  At their annual general meeting held in Bukoba municipality on Wednesday, September 4th, Wilfred Wilbard from Mugeza Co-Educational School for the Deaf was elected chairman while Gelda Geofrey from Muleba district was elected vice-chairperson.

The members also elected Roja Macheli from Misenyi as district secretary general while Jeremiah Nestory from Muleba District became assistant secretary.

Others elected were Digna Damagi from Muleba district (treasurer) and  Prosper Anseth from Misenyi district (assistant treasurer).

Kagera Regional Community Development Officer, Charles Mafwimbo, appealed to residents in the region to give priority to children with disabilities in order to enable them get education, shelter, health services, and other social amenities.

He said all the seven districts of Bukoba, Muleba, Biharamulo, Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa and Misenyi had been directed to set up special schools to cater for children living with disabilities.

He noted that children living with disabilities had equal rights like other children and urged people to avoid stigmatizing this vulnerable group.


Kudos to these kids and the RCDO of Kagera for taking initiative and putting the rights and needs of those living with disabilities at the forefront.  Hongera sana!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hear Me Roar

Three recent articles in the Tanzania Daily News have caught my eye in recent days.  Firstly, they attracted my attention because of their relevance to my post about the intellectually impaired girl in Msaranga who has been a victim of various sexual abuses; secondly, because of the recurrence and intensity of the pieces; and thirdly, that they had even been published at all in a country as socially conservative as Tanzania.

On September 7th, I found this piece titled "Education on Sexual, Reproductive Health Rights Underscored Strongly," written by a woman (journalist Hilda Mhagama) and focused primarily on the words of a woman (Anna Mushi, Gender Advisor to the Wazazi na Mwana Project, a locally run venture from Jhpiego, out of Johns Hopkins).  Seems that if a real change in this area is going to take place, we're gonna have to look to the ladies for support.  Check a few snippets below:

Improvement in social attitudes towards Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) education is crucial in ensuring that young people become capable in applying it and enjoy a healthy and risk-free adult life .... Ms Mushi said that the right to education gives young people access to important information on reproductive health which can guard them against abuse and exploitation .... She said that when this right is denied, the results are lack of knowledge, lack of access to modern contraceptives, decreasing social status, increased sexual harassment of women, and an increase in HIV infections .... Girls in marginalized communities are most discriminated against, in their own homes as well as at educational institutions and health centers .... "The government should give priority to sexual and reproductive education as it is unsafe to have a community which is not conscious of those matters," she added.

The following day, another article ran with the headline "Society Owes Youths Reproductive Health and Rights Education."  This time, there was no byline and I noted that the language was more candid and concentrated than the previous day:

Growing up can be very daunting for many young people not so much in terms of physical growth, but more that they are ignorant of what is happening to their bodies .... Without accurate and timely information on sexual and reproductive health, many teenagers may make decisions that cost them their wellbeing and ruin their futures .... They need to be comfortable with the fact that what they are going through is normal and that they now have the responsibility of protecting themselves from harmful sexual practices .... The question here is who is teaching our young people the facts of growing up?  Parents want the schools to do it but fail to agree on how they should be taught and at what level.  The schools claim they are waiting for guidelines from the authorities concerned while religious leaders insist on taking the moral high ground of 'thou shall not preach such matters.'  So while this circus carries on, more girls are getting pregnant and are thrown out of the very same schools that do not want to take responsibility of teaching them sexual and reproductive health! .... It is time stakeholders got their heads out of the sand and addressed the problem squarely once and for all because as they run helter-skelter, it is the non-governmental organizations that come to the rescue .... Young people have a right to access information on reproductive health yet their society as a whole denies them that right as they refuse to take responsibility.  Parents, schools, health centers and even religious institutions need to wake up to the reality that young people need the support now and not later.  Later is too late.

Finally, more from Hilda on the 12th under the headline "Change of Attitude Crucial for Reproductive Health."  (PS: While I know that most of this campaign for SRHR education is for the benefit of older schoolkids, I can't help but feeling like my little ones could also profit from some direct edification about sex and their bodies.  If someone had told my little II girl in Msaranga that once you put your chupis on in the morning, you don't take them off until you reach home again, you don't let anyone touch you between your legs, and you don't talk to strange men who call out to you spontaneously from the shamba, maybe then she would still be an innocent .... in every way.)

"We have to improve awareness among youths by creating an enabling environment for them and advocating SRHR friendly policies in the education and health sectors," Ms. Mushi explained .... Speaking about family planning services, Ms. Mushi said that health centers need skilled service providers so that they can provide proper education and services to youth and women .... She further said that it is also important for sexual reproductive health education to involve men instead of approaching women only as the matter is crucial for both genders without exemptions.

So, all the way from the USA, I stand in solidarity with Ms. Mushi and Hilda Mhagama in roaring this out: FIX THIS PROBLEM, TZ!  "LATER IS TOO LATE!"

Friday, September 6, 2013



So, I've been back in the USA just over a week now and things are going great.  I've had a couple meetings, and plans for the website and collateral are back underway as well as preparations for not one but TWO fundraising events.  It will be a lot of work but, as usual, I am up to the challenge.  Plus, even though my work in Moshi was also pretty full-on, it was of a vastly different nature, so I am definitely ready to tackle tasks of this variety for a while and then I'll be in good standing to go back to Msaranga at the end of the year.

I'm not gonna lie though; it ain't easy to leave your "baby" behind, even in the best of hands and for just a short time like three months.  Fortunately, Vumi is coming strong out of the gate and I woke up this morning to the following email from her:

Pole na safari mwl naamini umefika salama.  Naendelea vizuri na watoto wote wanaendelea vizuri.  Tuna mgeni, Esta Mgeleja, nimempa mtihani, hajui kusoma, ataendelea twisheni na mwl.  James Daudi amehama.  Calvin George nae anataka kuhama.  Bado Mama Aroni hajafika kwa hojaji.  Kesho tutafunga shule kwa wiki moja, darasa la saba wanafanya mtihani.  Pia nitaanza kuwakumbusha wazazi kwa wiki ya therapy Gabriella.  Kazi njema.

Basically, it's an update regarding a new student whom she tested, a couple kids who have moved, and some other news at school.  Bless her little heart for sending it in such a timely manner with such complete information!  Does this girl know me or what?!  And to think, just a couple months ago, she had never even touched a keyboard.  Next year, methinks we're getting her a Skype account and opening her Twitter feed....

I'm off to NYC in a couple hours having rested for the holidays (Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, my mom's birthday) here in DC.  This coming week has me working hard on the web copy and other publicity materials, and I'll post again next week with more maendeleo.  Until then, a few photos from a world away....