Clocking 100: Clean-up campaign loses steam

Friday February 12 2016

Children taking part in the Independence Day

Children taking part in the Independence Day cleaning drive  

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

Dar es Salaam. When President John Magufuli scrapped last year’s Independence Day celebrations and ordered that the day be dedicated to a rare clean-up campaign, the idea was to tackle  the cholera outbreak that had spread in some parts of the country killing more than 200 people.

Cholera had lasted for about five months, leaving at least 13,000 people infected, according to statistics obtained from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Magufuli’s clean-up campaign may have increased Tanzanians’ awareness on the importance of keeping their environments clean to avert health hazards such as cholera.

But a survey carried out by The Citizen shows that Dar es Salaam and other major cities and towns continue to struggle with poor sanitation and lack of proper infrastructure for the disposal of waste and garbage.

The government has announced that every first Saturday of the month in Tanzania will be a general cleanliness day. However, environmental health officers believe that the President’s campaign may stall due to lack of a sustainable system for ensuring proper sanitation in cities across the country.

Dar es Salaam Regional Health Officer Emmanuel Mwandepa  appealed to the government to let municipal health officers coordinate the campaign. It’s a long shot, considering that the officers have been long  forgotten in public health.

“The actual role played by health officers in improving public health is not yet recognised by both the government and general public,’’ said Mr Mwandepa.

He attributed the situation to the lack of a clear primary health care strategy that would help increase community participation.

The health officer also blames local leaders for lacking commitment when it comes to address- ing the public sanitation problem. 

‘‘Sanitation in many cities is still very poor, partly because there are no facilities to ensure sustained cleanliness programmes,’’ said Mr Mwandepa, who is also the Chairman of the Association of Environmental Health Officers, known as Chatama in its Kiswahili acronym.

A Kinondoni Municipal health officer, Mr Mathias Kapizo, said Tanzania needs more than facilities to stay clean. He told The Citizen recently that a clear policy on sanitation must be put in place, not the current isolated calls for cleanliness.

“For the President’s campaign to be successful, there is a need for a special administrative unit. This will provide a guideline to environmental health officers,” he said.

He explained that what is currently being used, since the President’s order last December, is a campaign, which would not deliver long-term results.

“I think we now need to move away from that to having a proper plan in place to guide the general public and those overseeing the envisaged sanitation reforms,’’ said Mr Kapizo, who has worked as an environmental health officer for nearly 20 years in most regions of the country.

At a recent meeting to address the environmental health challenges of the country, health officers were proposing  that a special unit—to be named the Department of Environmental Health, Sanitation and Hygiene Services, which would be an authority on the environment and public health in the country be established. The  clean-up campaign announced by President Magufuli only served to set the tone, but without a clear policy on sanitation, it will suffer a natural death.