27 December 2012

Tanzania: Starving People Should Be Saved Promptly

Photo: IRIN
Tanzania's Ngorongoro residents in need of food (file photo).

IT has been reported that more than 200 children in Ngorongoro District have died of hunger, malnutrition and other related health complications.

This is chilling news, to say the least. This should not happen in a country that has enough food in its reserve stores.

The report says that the 200 deaths started occurring in May, last year, when a measles onslaught affected more than 1,000 children in the district. The situation got worse when famine struck Ngorongoro Division seven months ago and continues to wreak havoc.

Ngorongoro District Commissioner Elias Wawa says 18,500 tonnes of maize are urgently needed. The hunger victims also need a further 15,560 tonnes of other grains and 2,916 of legumes. The supplies could save the lives of more than 60,000 residents.

We are also told that the 200 deaths occurred in Oloiribi village alone, which means the death toll could be much higher if sufficient data was collected from all 17 villages that form Ngorongoro Division. Adults in this area face starvation too. This is unthinkable.

Why did leaders in this district remain silent until the deaths occurred? Tanzania has no reason to have hungry citizens. Not when the Strategic Grain Reserves hold enough food to ward off hunger, at least. What happened? Someone should tell the nation why the situation has been allowed to get out of hand.

This nation has enough food for every needy person, at least for the moment. Tanzania has a cultivable land area spanning 40 million hectares or 42 per cent of the total land area. Last year only 13 per cent of the cultivable area was actually tilled. But this was enough to feed the nation.

The farms covered four million hectares with the highest food crop production logged in Mbeya, Ruvuma, Rukwa, Iringa, Morogoro and Kilimanjaro regions. The food crops grown mainly in the Southern Highlands, the nation's bread basket, include maize, sorghum, millet paddy, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, pulses and bananas. Hunger never stalks the highlands which comprise Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma and Rukwa regions.

These are the Big Four. Ironically, while farmers in the Southern Highlands complain that the surplus food stockpiled in their homes is spoiling for lack of markets, residents in Manyara, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mara, Arusha and Tabora struggle with pangs of hunger.

It is a disgrace that children hailing from poor families in Ngorongoro District should die of hunger and malnutrition while government grain reserves await such unfortunate situations. And further supplies rot in farmers' homes in the Southern Highlands.

This is a laughable scenario. There should be an elaborate mechanism that would enable food deficient areas to get enough supplies. Meanwhile, quick action should be taken to save the lives of starving people in Ngorongoro. Hunger should not kill anyone in this country.

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