Only 50 percent of Tanzania’s total population has access to an improved water source and only 34% have access to improved sanitation. While Tanzania’s economy has grown exponentially over the last decade, many people still live in poverty. Those living in rural areas have an even harder time accessing clean water than city folks, and around one third of the rural population lives below the poverty line. This tells us that they don’t have the means to access water due to the travel costs, time, etc. According to Tanzania’s National Website, more than 80 percent of Tanzania’s population living in rural areas have limited access to clean water for domestic use, crop production, and adequate sanitation. That means water not only impacts their health, but their livelihood as well.
Without living near the coast or one of the 3 major lakes in the country, many Tanzanians have to resort to groundwater, which is often contaminated with bacteria and human waste. While homemade filtration systems can work, they don’t always rid the water of all bacteria, leading to water-borne illnesses, like malaria and cholera, which account for over half of the diseases affecting the population. While building a well or water source has become a popular charity option for Westerners, it often does more harm that good. Many organizations, churches, or individuals build wells that then break, leaving the village or area with no access to the clean water and no knowledge on how to repair the problem.
When visiting the home of Baraka, a TFFT scholar, he told us of his journey to gather water. When Baraka is staying with his family during school holiday, he walks two hours to fetch water, and then two hours back. He has created a saddle for his donkey to carry the full jugs back, making the trip slightly easier. Many families living in poverty would consider this a luxury—they or their children must travel much further for clean water. In the developed world, we are used to walking over to our sink and turning on the faucet to fill our glass. It is easy to forget the vitality and value of clean water when it is so easily accessible. The measure of one’s quality of life is dependent on access to water—does the family have clean water to drink? Are the children healthy? Does the family have adequate sanitation? Does the family have adequate hand washing materials? Approximately 3,394 Tanzanian children under 5 die every year from diarrhoea, meaning adequate sanitation is not just a luxury, but a life or death matter.
Luckily, the Tanzanian government and institutions around the country and the world realize the importance of access to clean water and proper sanitation methods for all people. Water is critical to a country’s development—needed not only for agricultural productivity, but also for industrial production. There is money to be made when there is access to water, creating more jobs and stimulation for the local and national economy. As part of its 2025 vision, the Tanzanian Government is working toward increasing access to clean water and improved sanitation to 95 percent.