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What are the current issues in the United Republic of Tanzania

Tanzania is classified as a Least Developed Country (LDC) ranking among the lowest in the Human Development Index (HDI). About 80 percent of the population derives its livelihood from subsistent and predominantly rain-fed agriculture. Some 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Yet, over the last three years, Tanzania's economy grew at the rate of 7 percent annually, driven mainly by telecommunications, financial services, transport and construction. Growth has occurred largely in urban areas, with limited job opportunities. Additionally, the discovery of large reserves of natural gas and crude oil offers the promise a new and significant revenue stream for the Tanzanian economy.

At the national level Tanzania is food self-sufficient. However, localized food deficits occur at regional, district and household levels mainly due to dependence on rain-fed agriculture and limited use of modern farming techniques. According to World Bank poverty estimates, there are approximately 12 million poor people living in Tanzania, which is approximately the same number as in 2001. There is a growing disparity between rich and poor, with poverty being more pronounced in rural than urban populations. Within urban settings the disparity is also growing in the marginal periphery areas where the population does not benefit from public services.

Given food surpluses in recent years, the government lifted the export ban on maize. As a result, Tanzania's role as a grain supplier for East African region has been growing steadily. The government forecasted a surplus of 1.6 million mt of cereal production for the 2013/14 cropping season, mainly attributed to the reliable rainfall and increased use of inputs, particularly improved seeds and fertilizers. However, adequate storage to accommodate excess production remains problematic as does the high level of post-harvest losses.

Despite the improvement in national food security at household and individual levels, there are serious problems with food utilization and associated factors leading to high malnutrition in the country. Tanzania's latest National Nutrition Survey reveals that 34.7 percent of children under five are stunted. Tanzania has a high maternal mortality rate at 454 deaths per 100,000 live births (TDHS 2010). Poor maternal health can be attributed to many factors, including inadequate access to and utilization of proper health services. As a result, healthy fetal growth is hindered, and mothers are susceptible to complications during pregnancy and child birth.

Over the last four decades, Tanzania has hosted refugees who fled civil strife and ethnic conflicts in neighbouring countries. While most refugees have voluntarily returned to their country of origin, over 60,000 Congolese refugees remain as a result of continued instability in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a majority of refugees originate. More recently, tens of thousands of Burundians crossed over into Tanzania as a result of the crises in their country.

What the World Food Programme is doing in the United Republic of Tanzania

WFP Tanzania reaches approximately 1.6 million beneficiaries in chronically food-insecure regions through its Food for Education, Nutrition, Food for Assets, and Refugee support activities.

Through its Food for Education programme, WFP currently provides a school lunch every day to some 700,000 primary school children in 1,167 schools in 16 drought-prone and food-insecure districts. The promise of a nutritious meal each day is known to boost attendance and improve students’ concentration levels. WFP also supports the construction of rain water harvesting tanks, helping schools access water for cooking and hygiene. Increasing emphasis is being placed on supporting the development of community-led school meals initiatives.

To improve the nutritional status of vulnerable women and children, WFP provides a monthly take-home ration to moderately malnourished children, as well as pregnant and nursing women as part of regular mother-and-child services in targeted areas. To address high stunting rates, WFP provides blanket food assistance to children aged 6-24 months and pregnant and lactating women who attend selected health facilities under WFP’s Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition programme. WFP also provides technical support to the Government to implement the National Food Fortification Program, as well as establishment of Nutritional Surveillance System. Activities are carried out in support of the National Nutrition Strategy (2011/12-2015/16).

Through Food for Assets, WFP implements projects to encourage low-income, food-insecure households to participate in activities that contribute to their long-term food security. WFP gives community members food in exchange for work on infrastructure projects such as irrigation, market access roads, fish ponds, and contour terracing for soil and water conservation. Providing food in return for work also helps alleviate hunger in the lean season when food is scarce and prices are high.

Additionally, WFP is working to connect farmers to agricultural markets through its Purchase for Progress initiative, assisting them in becoming competitive players in the market place. WFP buys directly from farmer groups through a tendering process and engages in training and warehouse rehabilitation to help farmers reduce post-harvest losses.

Since the early 1990s, Tanzania has been hosting refugees fleeing civil unrest and ethnic conflict in neighbouring countries. Through its Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation, WFP is providing support to some 80,000 refugees currently living in north-western Tanzania through general food distributions and supplementary feeding programmes.

WFP participates in the ‘One UN’ initiative launched in 2007 to enable UN agencies work in a more coordinated and efficient way at country level. Tanzania was chosen as one of eight pilot countries and WFP has made efforts to enhance the process by taking the lead on ICT-related activities.

WFP provides logistical support services to WFP operations in neighbouring countries. Dar es Salaam port is a vital transit hub, not only for Tanzania itself but for much of East & Central Africa.

All images Copyright: WFP/Jen Kunz

Featured Tanzania publications

  • Tanzania: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 463 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Tanzania? Visit the Tanzania publications archive.