Posts Tagged ‘disease prevention’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized time and again how important access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is to both poverty eradication and overall health in developing nations. A long-term program currently underway in Tanzania—Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzania (UMATA), financed by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)—is working to address continuing sanitation issues throughout the country.

Centered on the Dodoma region, specifically the Bahi, Chamwino and Kongwa districts, UMATA is currently undertaking a baseline survey to determine the current state of sanitation in the region.

According to a recent joint WHO/UNICEF report, around 2.4 billion people worldwide—over one-third the global population—will still lack access to improved sanitation facilities in 2015 (improved sanitation facilities are defined as systems that keeps human waste effectively and safely separated from human contact). Currently around 1 billion people still rely on open defecation, with essentially no access to basic sanitation facilities.

pit latrinePit latrines, like this one, can rapidly spread disease.
Photo: Wikipedia

 

These startling statistics are sadly relevant in modern-day Tanzania. According to the Chamwino District Medical Officer, Dr. James Charles, 40-60% of the diseases they treat are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. The WHO has found that up to 70% of the diseases in Tanzania can be directly attributed to poor access to safe water and/or hygienic sanitation facilities.

Charles and other prominent Tanzanian officials believe the GSF grant (which totals $5 million over five years, from 2012-2017) will go a long way towards reducing those numbers.

Improved sanitation would not only impact health outcomes of Tanzanians, it would significantly impact the economy and educational prospects for children, especially girls. Illnesses caused by poor sanitation keep students—particularly the poorest students—out of school for long stretches, often resulting in death, particularly in very young children. Schools often lack private and/or hygienic facilities for girls, which often results in their being unable to continue their education. Moreover, women still fill traditional roles, including household management. Due to inadequate water access, women—and their daughters—often spend hours every day finding and retrieving safe (or less than safe) water, a task which keeps girls from attending school regularly.

Improved school facilities—such as those built by Thomson Safaris’ partner organization Focus on Tanzanian Communities (FoTZC)—can help remedy this problem, but larger-scale efforts, like the UMATA program, are needed in order to see country-wide health improvements.

The GSF grant is focusing on the Dodoma region, selected because it is one of the poorest and least-served in the country. Once the baseline survey, currently underway, is completed, the program will move on to improving facilities, access, and health education in the targeted districts.

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