Friday, 16 June 2017

The African Report on Child Wellbeing, the case for Tanzania

By +Caroline Anande Uliwa @CarolAnande-Instagram @CarolAnande-Facebook @CarolAnande-Twitter

Ms Graca Machel at the launch of the ARCW'16 in Johannesburg
last month 
Almost half of Africa’s population is under 18 (half a billion), where in most countries the child population is doubling every 25 years. Facts like this litter the ‘The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016’ (ARCW’16) generated by The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). 

ACPF is an independent, not for profit, Pan African centre for research and advocacy on the African child based in Addis Ababa, established since 2003. On its board of trustees is notable persons like H. E.  Dr Salim A. Salim former Prime Minister of Tanzania and Secretary General of the then OAU; H. E.  Joaqium Chissano, President of Mozambique (1986-2005) as well Ms Graca Machel, International advocate for women’s and children's rights; former freedom fighter and first Education & Culture Minister of Mozambique. 

The report the fourth of its kind from the forum, titled ‘Getting it right: Bridging the gap between policy and practice’. Was launched in Dakar, Senegal in December last year and in May this year ,it was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa. It focuses on child rights implementation with the aim of helping bridge the gap  between policy and practice. 

Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen from University
of Western Cape in SA, running the
 Children Rights & Advocacy project
 at the Community Centre delivering
 her speech at the launch of the
ARCW'16 in J'burg last month
“I find it quite interesting, that the general comment that’s being developed by the African committee of experts here, is specifically on general measures of implementation and systems strengthening. Which is new… that is precisely to take account community informal systems that respond to reach our protection issues. So we have a very different content to the CRC committee general measures of implementation of 2003. This report deals directly with the resource context and the capacity context in Africa…” —Prof Julio Sloth-Nielsen from the University of Western Cape in SA, who was present at the launch of the report in South Africa.

As Tanzania is a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of  the Child (ACRWC) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Where article 1 of the ACRWC declares that states must: ‘…recognise the rights, freedoms, and duties enshrined in this Charter and […] must take the necessary steps, in accordance with their constitutional processes…” Where in the CRC, article 4, requires states to take all ‘appropriate legislative administrative and other measures’ to enforce children rights. 

“Here in Africa, we are not short of laws and policies, as we have done tremendous work in this regard over the last decades. What we fundamentally lack is implementation, commitment and capacity to translate them into action…” Ms Graca Machel, present at the launch of the report in Johannesburg. 

Members of the ACFP and invited guests at the launch of ARCW'16
in J'burg last month

The report critiques the previous national plan, ‘National Child Protection Agenda’ (NCPA II). As effective yet poor in its implementation due to several factors including budgetary constraints to the government wing responsible. That is the now Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly & Children (MHCDGEC). 

“…The total budget for the Plan was USD 44 million for 2014 and USD 57 million for 2013. However much less than this was allocated. The government attributed this to donor delays in disbursing funds, the reality was that the Ministry of Finance allocated the available funds to other expenditures. 

The report further elucidates that poor coordination at lower administrative levels “…such as the committees for the most vulnerable children (MVCC’s) and the Child protection Teams are not recognised as formal structures. They are only funded after the Prime Minsters Office regional administrative and local government PMO-RALG, has authorised their payments. But this has not happened so it has not been possible to strengthen the capacity of the committees at ward and community levels to facilitate activities, local government agencies and so implement the plan more effectively. Source ACPF 2016”

We caught up with Mr Obey N. Assery, the Director of the Department of Coordination of Government Business at the Prime Minister’s office. He instead cited positive efforts by the Prime Minister’s office. “In terms of child wellbeing I can recall two initiatives relating to children’s welfare. One is on nutrition where our focus has been to combat both chronic and acute malnutrition among children. 

Invited guests at the launch of the ARCW'16 in J'burg last month
We put emphasis on the first 1000 days of a baby’s life window as well the post 1000 days campaign, as you know within 5 years we were able to bring statistics for stunted children down from 42% to 35%, here our National Multi sectoral Nutrition Action Plan played a big role…We also coordinate social protection issues which we are focusing on helping children from poor backgrounds access health, education and other services through cash transfers. Issues of child labour and violence against women are also coordinated under PMO.”

Its wise to note here that 70-80% of the recurring budget for the MHCDGEC is facilitated by donors, so for instance the budget in 2015-16 for the ministry was USD 14,482,000. Yet only 5,035,000 was left for development, wherein the children rights implementation faction is found. In the 2014/15 national budget, the child rights implementation faction received only 230,500 less than 2% of the ministry’s budget that year. Bear in mind this is the wing left to carry out NACP II and delay in budget arrivals to the ministries is common as the report cites. ‘In Tanzania…only 22.8% of the development budget had been disbursed by April 2015 (two to three months before the end of the financial year).’

So it fairs sub nationally 61 percent of community development posts in Tanzania at ward levels, were vacant following last year with many districts having no ward community development officers, not to mention child protective teams or social workers.

On the ground what this breaks down to, is that for every 1000 live births as of 2015 in Tanzania, 35 passed away at infancy and 49 passed away under 5 years.  Since 2010-15 only 49% of pregnant women in the country gave birth with a skilled health worker present. Since 2009-13 the government only contributed 25% to the overall budget of EPI (immunisation kit).  Only 15% of our babies born in the country are registered with a birth certificate as of 2016 (an indicator that civil registration and state systems aren’t very efficient at low levels of government). We had 810,000 children orphaned by AIDS as of 2014. The rate of stunted children is still above 30%, in some regions up 50%. Source ARCW’16

We caught up with Mr Jones John Matungwa g'Omukama, from Tanzania Child Rights Forum (TCRF), he was among the experts from Tanzania consulted in the making of this report. He shed light on what is available on the ground for children seeking protection from abuse in Tanzania. 

“You might have already read in the report that by operationalising the Gender and Children Police Desks in most police stations across the country. The government has put in place a system of accountability specifically for children, though distant. We’ve yet to fully gauge it’s effectiveness. There’s also the toll free no that children across the country can call to report their problems 116. Also there are various districts supported by UNICEF programs as well the scarce but times available district child protection teams at government ward offices. Also legal services through response provided by paralegals support many districts across the country.” He further cited a lack of priority for children’s well being by society and government as a whole, being the main reason for lack of quality advertisement of these services to the public. 

“I think there is a need to mobilise around it. Besides, the just launched National Plan of Action on Violence Against Women and Children should help galvanise actions towards promoting access to these and other prevention and response services, hopefully.”

It’s not all gloomy, the good thing is our laws and policies are strong, we have the existence of domestic laws on child trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, harmful traditional practices including FGM, we have child friendly courts, plus corporal punishment (at least on the books) is prohibited at home & at school. Our immunisation against measles was at 99% as of 2014. 

We caught up with Mr. Richard Mabala from TAMASHA, another expert from Tanzania who was consulted on  the making of this report from Tanzania. He echoed Mr g’Omukama’s sentiments on the low level priority given to children issues, highlighting the impacts of neglecting children for the nation.

“The likelihood of children (who were malnourished, having no access to basic services like primary education and vaccinations; who have experienced sexual abuse and or excessive corporal punishment); growing up as happy, healthy, productive human beings is a miracle. 

There are more likely to extend this abusive behaviour to their children even participate in crime & such regressive behaviour. Which in no way profits our nation, in the work force or at home. However from our experience in TAMASHA (youth organisation), the resilience of young people is very high and when they are given a second chance, the majority grab at it with both hands. We spend all our money on physical infrastructure, what about human infrastructure…”

The report in its remedial advice urges our government to strengthen its accountability systems at all levels of governance by building their capacities. Investing in data collection and dissemination plus involving children in the implementation of their rights. You can access the report at 

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