MAJORITY of activists in Tanzania have been advocating for female sexual abuse, early marriages and child pregnancies as core factors that have for long limited girl children in Tanzania from meeting their dream, but the Save the Children report of June 2017 titled ‘End of Childhood 2017,’ among other things, has cited malnutrition as the new emerging threat preventing children from marginalised families realise their full potential.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)’s contribution to child development in Tanzania is a notable issue when it comes to advocating for the available challenges facing children in given specified fora where they have voices condemning rape, issues of female genital mutilation and all forms of violence, but to a large extent the issues of nutrition in child development have been hardly given any sound.
As highlighted in this context, the End of Childhood report 2017 has revealed stunning figures, that 156 million children under the age of five in the world including Tanzania records stunted growth; a fact that prevents children from reaching their full potential and can be short for life and it is aggravated by poverty.
This number, according to the report, is about a quarter of all children in the age group. The report says that stunted growth is caused by chronic malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life from the start of pregnancy to age 2.
Chronic malnutrition at this stage of life is largely irreversible and stunted children face a lifetime of lost opportunities in education and work. The children under this condition, according to the report, are likely to succumb to illness and disease, and can die as a result.
The report further argues that nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to under nutrition. Briefing the summary of findings of the report during the children symposium on the Day of African Child celebrations that took place from 14th -16th June, this year, in Dodoma, a Child Rights Governance Specialist, Ms Neema Bwaira revealed that Tanzania recorded 34.6 per cent of stunted children, which is equal to 3.2 million of all child population in Tanzania.
In this regard, she called for the government to make sure there is no single child who should be dying of malnutrition since majority of Tanzania’s lands have what it takes to produce useful harvests for the health of the children, also arguing that sponsors and civil societies should join hands in helping the government address the challenges.
Ms Bwaira briefed the summary of the report findings to the Deputy Minister of Healthy, Community development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, who officially opened the symposium and later launched the report of the “End of Child Hood 2017.’’ She noted that majority of children in the world are dying from curable and preventable diseases.
She was quoted as saying before the deputy minister that 48.7 per cent of children under five years of age in Tanzania lose their lives, which is almost 1,000 children who are born alive, recommending that the government can stop or minimise the effect if significant steps can be taken to improve health services in the country.
In connection to what the report has revealed, Minister Kigwangalla briefed the press that 51.4 per cent of all children in the country are girls and one girl in every three girls and one boy in every seven boys experiences sexual violence before the age of 18, which is the minimum age recommended by the constitution of Tanzania.
The minister stressed that statistics show that the ratio of registration between girls and boys at both primary and secondary education goes in equal rationale, but as time goes by the country finds girls diminishing from education because of the varying challenges facing girl’s, child pregnancies being among the factors.
Apart from the contention from the minister, the report shows alarming statistics of school drop-outs worldwide, that 263 million children are out of school and it reveals that this is more than 1 in 6 school aged child worldwide.
With regard to what the minister asserted, End of Childhood report 2017 also highlights that educating children gives the next generation the tools to fight poverty and prevent diseases.
It builds confidence, literacy and dignity and builds a stronger foundation for the future we all share. In this regard, the minister called on parents and guardians to adhere to the requirement of this years’ Day of the African Child slogan which aimed at providing an opportunity to all concerned to digest the challenges facing children in the African continent and clearly find a lasting solution for the same.
The report in its preamble wording highlights that at least 700 million children worldwide and perhaps hundreds of millions more childhood has ended too soon. The major reasons included poor health, conflict, extreme violence, child marriage, early pregnancy, malnutrition, exclusion from education and child labour.
The report further contends that when taken together, these factors have created a global childhood crisis of massive proportions. She briefed several high lights of the findings to delegates, where she proposed to the government to ensure it allocates available resources to all children in the periphery in order to stop them from being left behind.
She was also of the view that all children access opportunities in equal times regardless of their background, especially the long standing belief from some section of the society that have stopped girls from progressing with their studies in favour of marriages and called on the government to make sure that all children have access to better services, including registration during child birth.
Bwaira also maintained that the government should ensure that all children have access to free and quality primary education, saying that the state should also make sure girls are not denied their child hood through premature pregnancies, child labor and all forms of violence.
The final celebrations were officially opened by the Chamwino District Commissioner (DC), Ms Vumilia Nyamonga, at Humekwa village in Haneti ward, who told those present about the significance of the Day of the African Child to the marginalised villagers of Africa.
Ms Nyamonga said that it was high time Dodoma ceased to be listed among the regions recording mounting percentage of girl child pregnancies, naming the leading regions as Katavi 36.6 per cent, Simiyu 32.1 per cent, Geita 31.6 per cent and Shinyanga 31.2 per cent.
She said that Dodoma Region has launched a campaign to end girl child school dropout and early child marriages known as ‘Three gowns Campaign’ which literary means that girls should be on school gowns or uniforms, end up into graduates of different aca demic disciplines and finally accomplish their dreams by making right marriage choices.
The children symposium was organised by a section of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) together with the government to commemorate the Day of African Child to honour over 700 youth who were assassinated by the white minority rule in South Africa in June 16, 1976.
The children who attended the symposium had an opportunity to air their views and share experiences on the challenges they face from the centre to the periphery of Tanzania.