Notable efforts have been made by the government and civil society in recent years, but the goal of ensuring that all Tanzanians use proper and decent toilets, irrespective of their incomes or social standing, still seems a long way off.
This is one of those problems that have stubbornly refused to go away even as Tanzania prepares to mark 61 years of independence later this year.
Survey findings that have established that up to 90 per cent of households in some areas lack toilets that conform to acceptable standards make for grim reading. However, they are representative of the wider picture in the country.
The lack of proper toilets remains a problem both in urban and rural areas due to various factors, including widespread poverty, ignorance, a rapidly increasing population and unplanned development.
This partly explains why cholera and other communicable diseases caused by poor sanitation are common occurrences even in urban centres such as Dar es Salaam. The big question here is: is enough being done to ensure proper and adequate sewage disposal?
We may be in the 21st century, but there are people who still think that it is perfectly in order to relieve themselves in the bush.
Study findings show that proper toilets are not very high up on the list of priorities of a vast number of Tanzanians. They are simply not viewed as a necessity, with some regarding them as a luxury they can barely afford.
Civil society organisations that have been conducting programmes aimed at making it possible for more people in rural areas to build and use proper toilets deserve to be commended.
The education campaign the government has been conducting since the early days of independence needs to be supplemented with strict enforcement of by-laws on proper sewage disposal.
We should get to a point where people should be made to understand that not having a proper toilet amounts to breaking the law.
PRESERVE CULTURAL HERITAGE
There is an urgent need to teach the young our country’s history, and also strive to preserve art and artefacts that have historical significance.
In years to come, they will give future generations an insight into the foundations of their society.
It is on this account that we agree with a recent call by experts urging Tanzanians to rethink our limited interest in historic architecture. There are many buildings built during the pre-colonial and colonial eras that reflect our past. These are fast vanishing, either due to property development or vagaries of the weather.
Experts routinely highlight the need to invest more in conservation and restoration of structures of historical significance for the sake of posterity. They note with concern that most of the funding for conservation comes from donors. The government is not keen, apparently.
Since donor funding cannot be guaranteed, we must strive for self-reliance if we are to sustain efforts to protect and preserve our cultural heritage.