Arusha and northern Tanzania has a rich cultural heritage with many luxury hotels surrounding the most popular state parks in the region, thousands of tourists each year come to Arusha to admire the beautiful landscapes and national parks - especially Mount Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro Crater.

Arusha is the largest city in northern Tanzania with much of the population living in crowded squatter communities. Arusha is primarily occupied by the Maasai people; much of the population that lives here sell jewelry and fabric to tourists in the crowded city markets, and retreat to one-room homes and desperate poverty each night. Families in Arusha and surrounding communities struggle to live on as little as 20 cents per day.

Tanzania Northern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Christian, Muslim, indigenous beliefs

The Weather

  • These Maasai girls from Tanzania proudly wear their traditional clothing. Tanzania Girls in Traditional Dress
  • Children attending their Compassion centers, where they can play with friends and enjoy just being kids. Tanzania Children on Playground
  • Children growing up in slums face many daunting obstacles in their journey out of poverty. Tanzania Children Outside Small Home
  • There are more than 21 million children under age 15 in Tanzania. Most of them are growing up in poverty. Tanzania Young Child Closeup
  • Compassion-assisted children are encouraged and taught how to develop a lifelong relationship with God through prayer. Tanzania Children Praying
  • Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, overlooks this busy market in northern Tanzania. Tanzania Mount Kilimanjaro

Overview: Northern Region

The northern region of Tanzania is dominated by the city of Arusha, which is primarily occupied by the Maasai people. The area is known for its beautiful landscapes and national parks. Many of the local people who crowd the city during the day, selling jewelry and fabric to tourists, retreat to one-room homes and desperate poverty each night.

Agriculture is the primary industry in northern Tanzania. Every year this region ships tons of vegetables and fruit all over Europe. Small-scale agriculture was badly hit by the coffee crisis of recent years and is now largely subsistence farming. Families in Arusha and surrounding communities struggle to live on as little as 20 cents a day.

The northern region of Tanzania is a land of contrast. The area has a rich cultural heritage, and attracts thousands of tourists each year. Luxury hotels have been built around the most popular state parks, but most of the people who live in Arusha, the largest city in northern Tanzania, live in crowded squatter communities.

Northern Tanzania is an area of quickly growing cities — and rapidly increasing violence. In addition to drugs and gangs, violence is also common between Christian and Islamic communities. Compassion partner churches in this region face persecution, but each year they see thousands of children and their families come to know Christ.


Culture Corner

Tanzania Culture


(fried bananas or plantains)

Prepare ndizi kaanga (fried bananas or plantains), a typical Tanzanian dish.


  • 8 whole plantains or green bananas, peeled
  • Lemon juice
  • Brown sugar (optional)
  • Butter, melted
  • Nutmeg


Melt butter in a frying pan. Cut and quarter the bananas or plantains.

Dip the banana pieces in lemon juice and place them in the buttered frying pan. Lightly brown, remove, and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with nutmeg and brown sugar, if desired. (Ndizi is typically not sweetened in Tanzania.)


Life in Northern Tanzania

Tanzania’s northern region of Arusha is a popular tourist destination. Mount Kilimanjaro, national parks such as the Ngorongoro Crater, and the colorful, proud Maasai people of this region attract many visitors each year.

The primary livelihood in this region is agriculture (either independent subsistence farming or day labor on larger farms). Arusha is an important coffee-producing area. Also in this region, mining, cattle raising and tourism are common livelihood sources.

The city of Arusha, the regional capital, has a population of more than 1.5 million people. The poor of this city live in crowded slums and earn a meager wage through day labor jobs or petty vending to tourists. The unemployment rate in Arusha is extremely high, and poor families find it difficult to meet even their most basic needs.

Children at Home

Most Compassion-assisted children in this region live illegally in abandoned buildings with no electricity or running water. Their homes are just a few feet away from raw sewage, and the crowded living conditions aid the spread of disease.

The squatter houses are weakly built and many of them collapse during heavy rain or storms. The rainy season also brings malaria and other diseases that most families cannot afford to treat.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Tanzania

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is still claiming the lives of parents and guardians in this region, leaving more and more children orphaned and with no financial support. This situation has also led to an increase in street children, and it is estimated that 7,000 children live on the streets of Arusha.

Arusha is also dealing with increasing crime rates. The city is growing at a rate faster than the police can keep up with, and drug abuse and alcoholism from larger neighboring cities have spilled over into Arusha.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in Tanzania’s northern region, especially those in Arusha’s slums, have many urgent needs. Inflation has doubled food prices in recent years, and with the city’s rapidly expanding population, access to potable water is an increasing challenge. Lacking adequate sanitation, electricity or running water, slum housing is squalid. Violent crime in the city is rampant and growing, and the schools are overcrowded and undersupplied. HIV/AIDS continues to take a toll on poor families, leaving many children orphaned and homeless.


Schools and Education Education in Tanzania

Arusha has a number of government and private primary schools. The government requires all children to attend primary school. However, there is not enough room in the region’s secondary schools for all of its children, and the area severely lacks qualified teachers.

In some of the poorest areas of northern Tanzania, up to 60 percent of children will never attend school. Only 30 percent of those who begin school will graduate, and this lack of education severely limits job opportunities -- as evidenced by a 90 percent unemployment rate in the slums of Arusha.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Northern Tanzania child development centers are a place of safety and security for registered children. While their parents spend their days harvesting and selling in the market, Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also feel the love of a sponsor who cares for their daily physical needs.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion and local churches partner together to rescue children from poverty. Because of its resources, cultural expertise and local knowledge, the church is in a unique and vital position to put in place Compassion’s holistic child development curriculum. Such curriculum focuses on children’s spiritual, physical, cognitive and emotional needs. Teachers use games, music, drama and other methods to share the gospel with children who are eager to learn about Christ’s life and love for them. Children also learn about hygiene, nutrition, leadership and other crucial lessons that they share with their parents at home. Such interaction improves communication in families. An adult-oriented curriculum that will equip caregivers with vital parenting skills has also been proposed.

How Compassion Works in Tanzania Compassion in Tanzania

Compassion’s work in Tanzania began in 1999. Currently, more than 63,500 children participate in more than 230 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Tanzanian children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and fulfill their potential in Christ.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator is the key link between Compassion and the local church. The facilitator shares Compassion’s vision with church partners and oversees its implementation at centers. Partnership Facilitator Godbless Mwanga, for example, strives to ensure a respectful and trusting relationship between the church and families so that all involved are blessed.

Godbless must travel 12 to 14 hours by bus, motorcycle taxi or car to reach some of the 12 centers he oversees, but he is passionate about children and eager to work to further Compassion’s mission. He frequently interacts with students, pastors and child-care workers to organize training, activities and meetings, as well as to solve various types of communication problems.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the government’s effort to provide educational facilities for the students joining secondary schools.
  • Pray that the church will grow strong, even when located in the midst of Islamic communities.
  • Pray that crime rates in the city of Arusha will decrease.
  • Pray for the street children who have no homes and no one to care for their most basic needs.