13 November 2011

Tanzania: Nation's Ranking As Global Achiever Must Match Reality

Tanzanians have cause to be delighted by the report indicating that their country is sharing the second-best country position in the world with Venezuela on issues related improvement in people's quality of life.

According to the Human Development Index (HDI), under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme that introduced the ranking system in 1990, Tanzania is among the 72 best performers between 2006 and 2011.

And it leads the pack in the East African Community. It would be inexcusably cynical to laugh off the achievement as a hoax, since some headway has been made in critical areas on which the grading was based, including life expectancy, literacy, health, and general improvement of living standards.

But complacency would be highly misdirected, given the myriad of problems besetting those areas. Widespread poverty stalks millions of Tanzanians, a phenomenon aptly captured by the oft-quoted "less-than-a-dollar-a-day-per-head" income indicator.

Thousands of unemployed people must eat to survive, but do so by piling further pressure on low income-earning relatives, or compounding the hardships of low-income earners by stealing their cash and properties.

Drug addiction as an escape route is both eroding the quality of life alarmingly and shattering the notion that the youth are future nation builders.

Access to proper medical care is for many a pipe dream since public hospitals are woefully inadequate in terms of staffing, facilities and medicines, while charges at private ones are priced far beyond their means.

Most pensioners made significant contributions to the country's socio-economic development during their prime, but, in the absence of a good retirement schemes, they generally lead the sunset years of their lives as virtual paupers.

Being venerated as senior citizens is thus rendered hollow. Tangible solutions must be found in those areas to give a fuller meaning to the heroic status that the UN has bestowed on Tanzania.

Short of that, we risk being the proverbial malaria patient who considers himself luckier than a cancer sufferer.

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