Severe Health Concerns in Tanzania

Tanzania is not publishing scientific data on Covid-19 cases. I’m writing to share with you our serious fears about the current situation in Tanzania.

A few days ago, on February 21, the BBC website reported that:

“The WHO asked Tanzania to take “robust action” after people travelling from the country tested positive for Covid-19. Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world to not publish data on Covid-19 cases.

The WHO’s plea comes after a spate of deaths of government officials. The vice-president of Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, died on Wednesday after his party said he had contracted Covid-19.He was the most prominent politician in Tanzania to have openly declared that he had the virus. The head of the Civil Service, John Kijazi, also died on Wednesday but no reason was given for his death.

President Magufuli had previously played down the virus and refused to take measures to curb its spread. The health minister said earlier this month that Tanzania had no plans to vaccinate.

However, on Friday, while giving a speech at Mr Kijazi’s funeral, Mr Magufuli appeared to admit that the virus was circulating in Tanzania. He said Tanzania had defeated Covid-19 last year and would win again this year.

Then on Sunday Mr Magufuli encouraged people to wear masks to avoid infection. But he urged people to use locally-made masks, saying… that some of the imported ones were not safe.”

Because of these and other reports, we in Europe have encouraged the staff in Tanzania to give these health concerns their top priority, and take all appropriate measures. We suggest these should include:

  • Stopping travel between the Children’s Village in Mkuranga and Dar es Salaam – use phones instead.
  • Avoid field visits related to the Relatives Support Programme – make food collections as safe as possible.
  • Continue to send kids to school if legally obliged but require masks and social distancing wherever possible.
  • Defer “regulatory compliance” actions (e.g. with the Occupational Safety and Health Authority) that involve external visits by our staff or external folk visiting MK premises.
  • Try to ensure that buying and selling of food, etc, is done with minimal external contact.

And of course, continue to ensure all children and staff wash their hands and use hand sanitiser.

There may be many more measures that make sense locally. As we have told them, “We would like you to feel empowered to act (and let us know later).”

In Mkuranga, a good friend of Malaika Kids died last Saturday of “breathing difficulties.” His name was Elidaima Kaaya.

His small business built a large number of desks and seats that were gifted by us (thanks to a special appeal just over a year ago) to the very deprived local primary school. He then took on two of our children to give them a year of work experience in carpentry, driven in part by his strong faith.

In the picture below, James and I were discussing progress on the project. Elidaima, on the right, was around 35 years old, fit and strong, and worked mainly out of doors. He will be sorely missed.

We are very concerned about our staff and the children in our care. We are also worried about the effect that Covid infections could have on the many older carers that look after the children placed in the Relatives Support Programme.

Currently, all we can do is to implement our own safety measures and fervently hope that all will be safe and well.

Alan Edwards
Malaika Kids UK Chair