There is no doubt that the country has enacted a number of laws aimed at safeguarding the welfare of children.
A stakeholders meeting in Arusha noted that there were programmes, policies and laws in place for the development of the child.
We also have in place the Child Act, 2009 aimed at spearheading the implementation of the international and regional agreements of the right of the child.
There is also a child welfare component in the national strategy for growth and reduction of poverty.
Sadly despite this framework of measures to safeguard the child, the actions that would translate the measures into reality, improving the welfare of the country’s children are lacking.
The gap as shown by statistics is shocking. The government admits that 7.6 million Tanzanian children are living in poverty and most of them are from rural areas, where there is lack of nutrition, child care, water, sanitation, health care or opportunities to learn in their earliest and most formative years.
It goes further to state that at least 58 per cent of children aged between five and six years do not attend pre-primary schools, which is the foundation for better education outcomes.
Research findings show that 42 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted and 16 per cent are underweight. Only 16 per cent of children under five are registered at birth and only 8 per cent have birth certificates denying many of them their fundamental right to an official identity and a chance to access education, health and other social services.
There is also the more serious problem of failing to effectively tackle abuse and violence against children.
These are indeed serious weaknesses, but the government while admitting them, says it alone cannot guarantee children a better treatment, for it does not have the needed resources.
What thismeans is that early childhood development a crucial area in the development of a stable and well-adjusted adulthood is lost to so many children.
The implications to the country’s development are not good. A mal-adjusted population does not provide a reliable foundation for its development.
Zanzibar Second Vice-President Seif Ali Idd said as much when opening a three-day biennial national forum on early childhood development in Arusha.
Stakeholders while applauding government’s efforts in investment in Tanzania’s young children still feels that more should be done to put children first, saying a recent study in 73 countries, showed that developing countries that invest in early childhood development can see up to a 17-fold return on that investment.
While at the bottom of Tanzanian child’s predicament is lack of resources to back the good intentions reflected in the policies, we feel that the government should review the current set-up
to satisfy itself that the few resources available are efficiently used.
We commend the stakeholders for highlighting the plight of children in the country and pointing the way to go.
We believe that there is a need to streamline the efforts and resources that various organisations devote to child welfare to maximise benefits to recipients. We may find that we are able to do more than is currently the case, guaranteeing a better future for these young members of our society.