Poverty & Healthcare

Seeking medical help

Outside the capital, Dar es Salaam, medical services can be patchy. Remote areas often lack hospitals and medical centres can be long distances away for rural communities.

Sleeping sickness and tsetse flies

The tsetse fly (see photo below) lives on wild game animals in areas where rainfall is fairly low. The flies carry a parasite called Trypanosoma, which can be passed into the blood of humans through a bite. Attacking the central nervous system, sufferers experience changes in personality and in their biological clock, hence the name ‘sleeping sickness’.

Tsetse fly, by Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Health centres frequently suffer from a shortage of trained workers and from a lack of medical supplies and equipment.

It is therefore common for people in Tanzania to visit their local mganga or traditional healer when they fall sick. While these healers can treat certain illnesses successfully with herbal remedies, seriously ill patients may require strong drugs or medical interventions such as blood transfusions.

As in many countries of Africa, malaria is a constant threat. The disease can cause severe anaemia in children. Malaria accounts for around 1 in 7 deaths among under-fives.

Sleeping sickness is also common among people living close to wildlife areas, where tsetse flies are common. If left untreated, the disease can kill and children are particularly vulnerable. The expansion of wildlife parks – see Tourism & Communications – has meant more villages are near wildlife areas.

Other strains on the health system

The human cost of HIV/AIDS

Over 80,000 people die of HIV/AIDS each year in Tanzania and an estimated 1.3 million children have lost either one or both parents to the disease.

Cholera strikes where sanitation is poor – in 2009 there were over 7,000 reported cases according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The HIV/AIDS epidemic also puts a huge strain on Tanzania’s health care system. Around 1.2 million adults (aged 15 or over) live with the disease, accounting for over 5% of the adult population. (This compares with around 0.2% of adults in the UK.)

Widespread poverty

Stunted for lack of a proper diet

As more families struggle with rising food costs, the country is seeing a growing number of malnourished children. Two-fifths of children are already stunted due to lack of adequate nutrition and the country is seeing a rise in the number of children affected.

Poverty and malnutrition are also widespread, affecting the health of many. 9 out of 10 people in Tanzania live on less than a dollar a day and poor nutrition among children is a major concern.

A civil society movement called the Nutrition Partnership for Tanzania (PANITA) was launched in Dar es Salaam in 2011. This has representatives from agriculture, health and social services and aims to provide a strong voice on nutrition and food production.

Projects among small-scale farmers aim to promote the use of drought-resistant varieties of maize and other crops. These varieties should allow smallholders to increase their harvests in drought-prone areas.