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A big plan for children and the community

Almost 20 years ago, 30 years after Tanzania gained its independence from colonial rule; a certain NGO made its debut in the country, with the sole aim of concentrating its energy on children. Worldwide, Plan International recently celebrated its 75th Anniversary, which was celebrated nationally in the coastal district of Kisarawe, a few miles from Dar es Salaam.

Unlike most NGOs, Plan Tanzania has ventured from the city and concentrated its energy in some of the most interior parts of the country, with operations centred in Dar es Salaam, Ifakara, Kisarawe, Kibaha, Geita and Mwanza. “Our programme approach is holistic, integrated and targets the poor and marginalized groups and we work towards helping them gain confidence and knowledge to engage with the government and wider society in general,” says Plan Tanzania Country Director, David Muthungu.

Plan Tanzania, a brainchild of Plan International, covers five key areas, all of which are rooted in the rights of the child: Safe environment for children and youth, fair start in Early Childhood Care and development (ECCD), healthy life, children and youth voice and household economic security (KUJIKIMU). Plan started working in Tanzania in 1991 and in all these years they have designed programmes which have a national reach through advocacy and media partnership. 

Dar es Salaam is home to Plan Tanzania's first programme unit, the Dar Urban Programme Unit which opened in 1992. The programme unit works in partnership with the Ilala District Council, Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA), community-based organizations including the Kombo Development Association, Madenge Development Association and Mtakuja Development Association. 

Mr Muthungu says that working with children, families and communities, Plan Tanzania has initiated a number of projects to improve access to quality health services in the programme area.  He says the programmes include the construction and rehabilitation of health centres – such as in Buguruni and Vingunguti, the provision of medical equipment and the training and capacity building of traditional birth attendants, community-based distributors, community health workers and peer educators, with a focus on HIV prevention.  

“Through our school improvement programme, Plan Tanzania has helped school committees to gain the knowledge and skills they need to involve communities and improve learning environments,” he says.However, during this year’s 75th anniversary celebrations in Kisarawe, the country director said this year’s message to mark the celebrations is ‘Count Every Child,’ which is aimed at ensuring that more parents obtain birth certificates for their children.

The campaign was launched by Plan International in 2005 and Muthungu points out that over 40 million people, mostly children, have been registered worldwide. “Even though our advocacy work has led to improved laws which make it cheaper and easier to register, every year 51 million newborns are not registered globally and in some countries less than ten per cent of children under the age of five are registered,” he said.

He says that Plan Tanzania is still faced with an uphill task, because in Tanzania, only 19 per cent are registered, leaving 81 per cent without birth certificates.  “We feel that Plan, in collaboration with Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) and other stakeholders, including the communities themselves, has a key role to play in order to change that,” he said.

The director adds that through Plan’s Universal Birth Registration campaign, they have mobilized communities to register their children so that they have an official identity and easier access to social services such as education.The Kisarawe Member of Parliament, Jafo Selemani Jafo concurs, says that legal proof of existence is fundamental to gaining respect, protection and the fulfillment of all the other rights of a human being.

He says that despite legal obligations, thousands of children a year both in Tanzania and globally are still not registered at birth, saying this lack of birth registration is both a symptom and a cause of underdevelopment in the countries where it occurs. Apart from the birth registration campaign, Plan Tanzania has constructed rainwater harvesting and water distribution systems, latrines, dams and drilled boreholes in schools and communities across Kisarawe.

Through their Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, they educate communities about the importance of sanitation and help them to construct and maintain their own latrines in an effort to stop open defecation.To ensure sustainable livelihoods, Plan Tanzania supports the formation of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), which help people typically unable to borrow from commercial banks to save and access credit, enabling them to invest in their businesses and provide for their families.

Plan’s response towards addressing household economic insecurity is centred on three major intervention areas: Financial; Agriculture Productivity and Market linkages and Business and Enterprise Development.  The key issues addressed are; inadequate access to financial services; Low agriculture productivity, poor natural resources management and market linkages and Limited business opportunities and enterprises development for youth and women.

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