MORE than 200 children in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) are reported to have died of hunger and its related complications, the 'Sunday News' has learnt.
A joint statement from 12 civil society organizations serving pastoralists, hunters and gatherers communities says while 14 children are currently admitted to Endulen Catholic Hospital suffering from malnutrition, over 200 others have died between May, last year and December 2012.
"The deaths were recorded from May 2011 when a measles attack affected more than 1,000 children. The situation deteriorated when famine struck Ngorongoro Division during the last seven months," reads a statement signed by representatives from the 12 organizations.
In a rejoinder, Ngorongoro District Commissioner, Mr Elias Wawa Lali, released an official report, dated 21st December, 2012 showing that Ngorongoro Division, lying within one of the "world's heritage sites," was grappling with hunger.
According to the DC, about 18,500 tonnes of food were urgently needed and an emergency relief comprising 15,560 tonnes of grain (maize) and 2,916 others of legumes, could rescue a population of more than 60,000 residents, mostly livestock keepers.
Mr Daudi Haraka, the Director of Tanzania Pastoralists and Hunters and Gatherers Organization (TAPHGO), points an accusing finger at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which lists the NCAA among its 962 world heritage sites, for setting tough conditions to be met by indigenous Ngorongoro residents.
"UNESCO has restricted farming within the NCAA and barred livestock keepers from grazing inside the crater. Livestock die during the dry season and people have no alternative sources of food, so they also perish," said Mr Haraka.
Mr William Ole Nasha from the 'Katiba Forum,' pointed out that the 200 deaths occurred in the village of Oloiribi alone, which means the death toll could be higher if sufficient data were collected from all 17 villages, forming the Ngorongoro Division.
"Subsistence farming should be permitted in the conservation area, at least for now, while other viable measures are being worked out," said Ole Nasha, adding that it made no sense to expect people to survive without livestock or farming.
Mr Edward Porokwa, the Director of Pastoralists Ingenious Non-Governmental Organizations (PINGOS) Forum, said NCCA management collects nearly 55bn/- annually, at its gates but only 1.4bn/- goes to the local Pastoralists Council. "At least 30 per cent of NCAA annual earnings should be invested in local communities, residing within the conservation area," said Mr Porokwa.
In their joint statement, the organizations urged the indigenous people to get involved in NCAA decision-making process so that their grievances can be addressed, saying currently the entire authority is made up of 'aliens.'
They also called for UNESCO and its affiliated conservation organizations to stop pressurizing the Government of Tanzania to undertake measures that are counterproductive to the interests of local communities in Ngorongoro.
The Ngorongoro Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGONET), The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), PINGOs Forum and TAPHGO signed the statement. Others are: Pastoral Women Council, Ujamaa Community Resources Team (UCRT), Community Research and Development Services (CORDS) and MWEDO. Also NYDA, TPCF, PWC, PAICODEO and ALAPA appended their signatures to the statement.