In Tanzania's Lake Region
Geography & Climate
- Tanzania is a tropical country with diverse geographical features, including mountains, highlands and coastal areas.
- This region is covered primarily by forests and game reserves suitable for agriculture and livestock, with a few outlying areas that are rocky and mountainous.
- Crossing over the borders of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake.
- The Tanzanian portion of the lake lies in the country’s northwest, where Compassion’s ministry is found primarily in Mwanza and Shinyanga, two of Tanzania’s 30 regions.
The area’s main source of income is agriculture, including farming and livestock. Most of the country’s cotton is grown in the lake region, and other crops include sorghum, cassava, tobacco and peanuts.
Apart from agriculture, gold and diamond mines are another major source of income.
The region also leads the country in cattle raising.
In Mwanza, located along the shore of Lake Victoria, many people work in the fishing industry.
Unemployment is high, and the average wage in these two regions does not exceed U.S.$20 per month.
Children at Home
Children in Tanzania’s lake region come from nomadic families who move around frequently.
Their homes are rudimentary huts or even temporary tents.
At the child development centers, children — often for the first time — feel what it is like to have four sturdy walls and shelter from the elements. Partner churches in this region are, quite literally, a home away from home.
Issues and Concerns
- Every year, 60,000 people in Tanzania die from malaria. Eighty percent of these people are children younger than age 5.
- HIV and AIDS are also prevalent here, and when the government launched a testing campaign, nearly 6 percent of those who participated tested HIV-positive.
- The stigma surrounding AIDS is severe, and many people refuse treatment in order to keep their diagnosis secret.
Local Needs and Challenges
Lack of clean water
In Shinyanga, one of the country’s driest regions, access to water is limited. Children have to walk long distances to collect water, often from unsafe sources that lead to life-threatening illnesses.
Malaria is a threat to children in both Shinyanga and Mwanza, as is HIV/AIDS, estimated to affect 5.8 percent of Mwanza’s adult population.
Schools in these regions are typically overcrowded, and qualified teachers are few.
Schools and Education
- The lake region has some of the poorest quality schools in the country. The number of children enrolled is low, despite the government’s efforts.
- The main reason for low enrollment and attendance is the nomadic lifestyle of those living here. Families move from place to place in search of grass for their livestock, and children cannot settle into a school routine.
- The few existing schools in the lake region are understaffed, as qualified teachers are hesitant to move to these remote areas.
- In order to meet the demand of the number of children living here, an estimated 300 more schools would need to be built.
- The average class size is between 50 and 60 students.
- One consequence of the lack of education here is a growing sense of superstition. Witchcraft is common, and human sacrifice is still practiced in some communities.
Compassion Tanzania works to ensure that every registered child is able to attend school, and we provide additional support, including tutoring, at the child development centers.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Child development centers in the lake region 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 sponsors, who help provide for their daily physical needs.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing help and hope to Tanzania’s children in need, providing:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- school uniforms, fees and supplies to ensure all assisted children attend school. Among the region’s Compassion centers, averaging 280 assisted children each, there is not a single child who is not in school.
- extra tutoring at centers to encourage children to stay in school and excel at their studies
- spiritual hope to communities throughout the region. Through the influence of their children, caregivers who would have never before given the church any thought are now committed members.
- the opportunity for sponsors to give special monetary gifts to their sponsored children. Some families have used these gifts to improve their lives by establishing small businesses or renovating their homes.