Tanzanian orphanages tend to be in beautiful places because Tanzania is a beautiful country in East Africa. There is much to offer those just visiting, and those who wish to stay for a long time. It is large, more than 1000km from east to west and from north to south. Lake Tanganyika in the west is the deepest lake in Africa and Lake Victoria to the north is the biggest. There are also mountains, game parks, forests and many other places of great beauty and profound scientific significance. The country has about 1,400km of exotic coastline and the water is clear and warm. There are also numerous islands, including those of the Zanzibar Archipelago.
Tanzanian Orphanages and Poverty
However, the country is one of the poorest in the world, ranking only 116th on the Social Progress Index, with a score of 47.14 (compared to, say, the US, which ranks 16th, with a score of 82.85). As a result, there are a lot of Tanzanian orphanages. Tanzania scores particularly badly in the areas of education, health, basic utilities, communication, personal safety and human rights. The Human Development Index ranks Tanzania even lower, at number 159, with a score of 0.488 (US: number 5, score 0.914). Despite a good deal of media accounts of how quickly some countries in Africa are developing, this often refers to economic indicators, depending on phenomena that have little bearing on the lives of the majority of people. Overall trends may show improvements, but they are usually very slow.
From the point of view of an orphanage and baby home like Watoto Kicheko, a high maternal death rate is one of the main causes of orphanhood (defined as a child who has lost one or both parents by UNICEF, often referred to as ‘orphans and vulnerable children’ (OVC), which explains why Tanzanian orphanages can be home to children with no parents, one parent, or even two parents). Maternal deaths currently stand at 454/100,000 live births. The rate is even higher in some areas, and rises to three times the national rate at Muhimbili National Hospital. Deaths among newborns stand at 16/1000 live births; infant mortality is 51/1000 live births; and under five mortality is 81/1000 live births. A child’s chances of survival should improve as they get older, but this is not always the case in Tanzania!
Tanzanian Orphanages in Urban Areas
Many Tanzanian orphanages can be found in urban areas. Cities, especially capital cities, are often not the most interesting parts of East African countries. Dar es Salaam has many lovely features, such as proximity to the sea, but it is large, sprawling and very congested, with poor roads and infrastructure. It is hot and humid, and many people only spend a short time there, on their way elsewhere. However many people, including myself, have found the city to have its good points; people are friendly and relaxed, you are never far from good food, and you might even be able to afford to live in a place by the sea! Other cities in Tanzania include Arusha, Mwanza, Tanga and Dodoma, the inland capital since independence, just over 50 years ago.
Arusha is mentioned elsewhere on this site, being the home of a Tanzanian orphanage called Watoto Kicheko (the laughter of a child). Mwanza, overlooking Lake Victoria, is growing and developing quickly, being the centre of the country’s huge gold mining industry (the country’s biggest earner). Mwanza is locally known as Rock City, after the countless ‘kopje‘ that the city is built on and around. Tanga is a small, quiet and peaceful city by the sea, close to some of the most beautiful beaches and resorts. It was an important city when Tanzania was a German colony and is now dominated by sisal, with a fair amount of medical research being carried out in several of the region’s hospitals. There is little of interest in Dodoma, which is not to say that it is an unpleasant place to be; however, it need not distract the visitor’s attention much, unless they have a special interest in capital cities, of course.
But East Africa does have many spectacular rural areas, with Tanzania being the biggest country in the region. Fewer Tanzanian orphanages are built in rural areas, where the majority of Tanzanian people live. Rural areas can be isolated and that makes them expensive to run, being distant from vital supplies and services. Whether you like to travel around independently, use public transport, or go on organized tours, you will be impressed with the many sights. Using public transport is an experience in itself, with some people insisting on trying it. It certainly can be cheap. However, it will not make your trip less stressful or more safe. Indeed, you can end up spending a lot of time on the road if you choose to use the daladalas (minibuses), coaches, tuktuks and motor bike taxis. As the roads and vehicles are in terrible condition, and drivers are concentrating on making as much money as quickly as possible, without any concern for safety (the driver rarely owns the vehicle), public transport can be a bit dangerous.
Do your research, ask several people, then get a second opinion. Sometimes those most willing to advise you can give you the worst advice!