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Children in an Urban Tanzania

Riggio, E. (2012) Children in an Urban Tanzania. UNSPECIFIED.

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One in four children being born in today‟s Tanzania is likely to be growing up in an urban area. It is projected to be one in three in the short time span of one generation. Tanzania is more urban than it perceives itself and official figures disclose. Urban Tanzanians feel emotionally rooted in their villages of origin rather than in the cities and towns where one quarter of the total population lives. Urbanisation figures fail to account for extensive high density areas just because they are not officially classified as urban. Despite a persisting rural self-representation, Tanzania is one of the fastest urbanising countries in one of the world‟s fastest urbanising regions. The nearly half urban population aged 0-18 may well be the first truly urbanised generation in the history of the nation.
As urbanisation is rapidly transforming the physical, social and economic landscape of the country, how has Tanzania equipped itself to provide adequate water, sanitation, health care, education, protection services to meet the fundamental needs and rights of a swelling number of urban children and communities? National policy and programmatic frameworks still broadly target rural poverty, perceived as the nation‟s core development challenge. Urban poverty, growing alongside urban affluence, remains mainly unaccounted for and, as a result, unaddressed. The condition of poor and marginalised urban groups escapes official urban figures. Standard urban-rural disaggregation generates statistical averages that overshadow sub-municipal disparities. Also poverty lines tend to underestimate actual poverty. Based on mere consumption levels, they disregard living conditions, thus leaving unaccounted for several necessities that poor households are normally forced to acquire through cash purchases in a monetised urban economy. As a result, urban poverty is broadly overlooked and poor urban children, lost in skewed official estimates and tucked away in peripheral unplanned urban fringes, risk remaining invisible in development policy and investments. In-depth analysis based on sub-municipal data is urgently needed to accurately measure urban poverty in its multiple dimensions of income poverty, inadequate access to basic services and powerlessness.
The assumption underpinning the limited attention that has been paid to urban poverty is that of an urban advantage. Undoubtedly, cities enjoy an edge over rural areas. Urbanisation drives the development of a whole nation. High population concentration, economies of scale, proximity and agglomeration make cities engines of growth. They offer greater avenues for livelihood and education, and should be expected to afford children better opportunities for survival, growth and development than rural areas. Better economic resources and political visibility hold a potential to offer higher incomes and enhance the scope for the government and the private sector to fund services and infrastructure. Density, favouring economies of scale, promises to favour delivering of essential services.
Children, adolescents and youth are attracted to city life, aspiring to access better jobs, higher education and a richer cultural life. Urban areas are also hubs of technological innovation, social exchange and mass communication. Urban children can draw from resources that are denied to rural peers.
The urban advantage, however, is being eroded. Provision of social services and infrastructure is failing to keep pace with growing demand being generated by urbanisation.
 Availability of basic services, expected to be markedly higher in urban centres as compared to remote rural areas, has been declining. Decreasing urban access to improved sources of drinking water over the past decade epitomises this trend. The traditional urban – rural social sector performance gap has been narrowing against most indicators in the areas of education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. In some cases gaps have been actually bridged and rural areas are even outperforming urban centres.
 As urban social sector performance is declining, it is likely that it is the poor, underserviced communities to remain unreached. Although statistical averages prevent any level of sub-municipal analysis, limited data available on access to basic services and health and education outcomes in low-income urban communities suggests that the urban poor may be faring even worse than their rural counterparts.
 Urbanisation growth is projected to continue in the future. If the present scenarios are not going to be addressed now, they are likely to deteriorate further. As density increases and unplanned settlements become more congested, investments in social facilities and infrastructure can only be expected to become costlier, both financially and socially.
If not properly leveraged, the potential advantage that cities offer can turn into a disadvantage. A concentration of children in areas where services and infrastructure are lacking is a major disadvantage. Children residing in overcrowded and degraded settlements characterised by poorly managed sanitation systems, inadequate provision of safe water, inefficient solid waste management are faced with one of the most life-threatening environments possible – with climate change posed to increase vulnerability further. Such a disadvantage can be daunting in a situation where the overwhelming majority of urban dwellers reside in unplanned settlements, which in Tanzania‟s primate city, Dar es Salaam, are estimated to accommodate over 80 percent of the population, one of the highest proportions in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Availability and access are not synonymous. In most cities, availability of basic services does not translate necessarily into access. Higher quality and availability of services needs to be equally distributed across social classes and space to achieve equal access by all citizens. The difference between successfully exploiting the urban advantage and passively reeling under the urban disadvantage can be made by the way access to resources is managed. A competent, accountable and equitable system of local governance can make that difference. Good local governance can help overcome the disparities that still bar access by the poor to safe water and sanitation, quality education, adequate health care and nutrition, affordable transport, secure land tenure and decent housing. Accountable local authorities, proactive communities and enabled children are the key actors in a local governance process leading to the creation of cities friendly to children.
Young people are already participating in local governance processes. They are active in children‟s municipal councils, children‟s school councils and other similar institutions. Avenues for child participation needs to be strengthened and opened to all children, not only in institutional settings, but also in families and communities having primary responsibility for children‟s well being. Cities and communities provide the most relevant scale for genuine children‟s participation, where young people can effectively engage in addressing the problems that directly affect them.
Though universal human rights and global development goals are set at the international and national levels, it is ultimately in a myriad of local Tanzanian communities that they are expected to be fulfilled – in the family, the school, the ward and ultimately the city. The city government offers an ideal platform for converging a plethora of sectoral interventions independently targeting children and delivering them holistically, at the local level where children live. The horizon of children is local. Within the local dimension, children‟s goals and rights can be met and monitored by duty bearers who have primary responsibility for their fulfilment. If development goals and human rights are not implemented locally, they are likely to remain abstract declarations of intent and sterile. Local authorities, communities, families and children together can transform today‟s child unfriendly urban settings into child-friendly cities – as cities friendly to children are friendly to all.

Item Type: Other
Keywords: Children, Urban, Tanzania, street children, child labour, child health
Subjects: Demography > Population studies
Demography > Migration
Divisions: Other
Depositing User: Mr Joseph Madata
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2012 15:09
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2012 15:10

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