Among the 59 million people in Tanzania, home to Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, countless people in the nation to date do not believe that COVID-19 is real.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Tanzania has been working to lend support during the pandemic but recently shifted its efforts to focus on breaking down barriers to COVID-19 awareness and prevention.
“There is still a big divide in the Tanzania population about COVID-19 and hesitancy in getting vaccinated,” Sam Oyortey, country director for ADRA in Tanzania, said. “It is believed that COVID-19 is a myth and that the vaccines are not safe.”
Reportedly, part of the dilemma involved the local government’s past position that vaccines were unnecessary and that there were no plans to deliver the COVID-19 vaccines being distributed in other countries.
With Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, the administration reversed its stance on vaccines and is working to get COVID-19 vaccines distributed throughout the country.
“With the support of the government now opened to COVID-19 prevention methods, ADRA has been working in Tanzania on COVID-19 response efforts focusing on the most marginalized groups, including children, business owners, and people with albinism,” Oyortey said.
In its community research, ADRA learned that students leaving home for school were using buses and dala dalas (motorcycles) as transportation. This increased the contact and infection rates among youth. Additionally, schools did not have handwashing facilities installed. Lack of proper hygiene in the markets also made vendors, a majority of whom are female business owners, more susceptible to COVID-19 due to exposure to many different kinds of people, including tourists.
Another underserved population affected by the coronavirus are people with albinism, whose access to health-care services provided by charitable organizations was greatly reduced, because the organizations were closing due to lack of funding.
“We aim to manage the implementation of COVID-19 prevention among these groups, and our priority is to target 10 schools to install handwashing facilities in institutions that previously didn’t have one, and coordinate COVID-19 clubs for 25,000 students, where teachers will be trained to educate young people about the virus and teach them how to protect themselves,” Oyortey said.
Oyortey also shared that ADRA will work with 9,000 public market vendors to demonstrate proper handwashing, wearing face masks, and keeping a distance of at least six feet (two meters) based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
People with albinism impacted by the pandemic will also receive support from ADRA in partnership with volunteers from local Adventist churches, who will train residents in the community on how to establish vegetable gardens to improve their household’s nutrition.
“There is no need for our country to suffer more than it should when there are preventable measures that can be taken,” Oyortey said. “ADRA will continue to provide support because there is such great need. We are also hopeful that our fellow men can understand the severity of this health crisis and help minimize this deadly virus through their involvement in prevention. The virus won’t go anywhere unless we all do something about it together. We need people to realize the virus is real and that we can do something about it.”