Book ID 477
ELCA International Disaster Response--Tanzania, 1997
Extract Date: 1997 July 14
Like other Southern Sub-Saharan African countries, Tanzania has been facing serious Drought conditions which began in 1990, when the rains began to stray from their traditional pattern. In some areas, the rains have come too early or too late, while in some pockets they have simply been insufficient. This continued unreliability of rainfall has increased vulnerability in the Drought prone regions, districts and villages.
Current reports indicate that nearly 700,000 Tanzanians are facing acute food shortages due to the prolonged Drought and the figure is expected to rise further. Though there has been no report of loss of human life, the situation is getting worse and the rate of malnutrition severe. The rate of malnutrition among children under five is severe and there is evidence of children collapsing in classrooms as a result of hunger. In pastoralist areas all the communities who solely depend on the livestock sale, milk and meat products are affected regardless of age, gender or occupation. In farming communities it is mainly the poor who depend on annual and perennial crops which are severely affected.
With the situation worsening in 1997, various traditional coping mechanisms used before by the communities have now eroded to a minimal level as a result of cultural and economic transformation. The pastoralist movement in search of water and pasture has been restricted as a result of land allocation to big farms and wildlife conservation.
Cultivation of Drought-resistant crops (sorghum, millet and root crops) has now shifted into maize culture. In addition, in most of these Drought prone areas, subsistence farmers have lost traditional seed preservation knowledge and developed seasonal purchasing behavior. During prolonged Drought, purchasing power is low and they become dependent on external aid, which is erratic.
A total of 15 regions have been seriously affected by this year s Drought, with the level of severity varying from region to region In Pastoralists areas such as Monduli, Ngorongoro and Simanjiro, livestock conditions have improved, although many were lost as a result of extended Drought. In the crop producing areas, the crop condition is better in the lowland parts of Karatu, Arumeru, Mwanga and Rombo.
The current need is to supply seed, especially maize; provide transportation; rehabilitate water supply systems; and administer and monitor crops.
Drought, as a creeping disaster, takes time to cause damage. Deaths of livestock and wildlife have been reported. Water sources have dried up as a result of large herds of cattle, goats and sheep migrating to water points and people looking for water. Consequently, springs and wells have been overdrawn and the environment damaged.
Another Drought cycle is predicted for 1999-2004. The question now is whether this short-term relief phase is enough to regain normalcy, or whether more is required to link short-term action to a rehabilitation phase and, eventually, a long-term self-help support phase.
Contributions to ELCA International Disaster Response will help make Drought relief work in Tanzania possible.