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Updated: March 2009


Overview | World Vision's history in Tanzania | World Vision in Tanzania today


The United Republic of Tanzania in eastern Africa is bordered by the countries of Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia, as well as the islands of Mafia, Zanzibar, and Pemba in the Indian Ocean. The mainland lies between the Great Lakes of Africa: Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyasa. In the northern area of the country sits Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. The climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate in the highlands. Natural resources include hydropower, natural gas, iron ore, tin, nickel, phosphates, coal, diamonds, gemstones, and gold.

Ninety-five percent of Tanzania’s population is of Bantu origin, representing more than 130 tribes; the other five percent are of Asian, European, Arabian, or other African heritage. Swahili is the country’s official language. English also is considered an official language and is used as the primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education. In addition, Arabic is widely spoken, especially in Zanzibar.

The colony of Tanganyika, as it was called then, became part of German East Africa in 1885. After World War I, the area was administered by Britain, along with the island of Zanzibar off the coast. Tanganyika became independent in late 1961; Zanzibar in December 1963. Four months later, the two merged into the United Republic of Tanzania. In the late 1970s, Uganda invaded the country and attempted to annex land. Tanzania declared war and launched a counter-invasion that ultimately brought about the end of dictator Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda. In 1998, the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed by terrorists, killing 11 Tanzanians and injuring 85 others. Seven years later, current Chairman of the African Union, Jakaya Kikwete, was elected president of the country, enacting much-needed reform.
map of Tanzania

Tanzanian flag 

Country statistics 
Population39.5 million
Land mass364,898 square miles
People per square mile108
Life expectancy51 years
Under age 5 mortality rate118/1,000
Literacy rate69%
Access to safe water63%
Average annual incomeUS$350
Indigenous Beliefs 35%
Note: Nearly 100% of Zanzibar practices Islam.
Tanzania is among the poorest countries in the world today. Estimates state that nearly 58 percent of Tanzanians are living on less than $1 per day. More than 40 percent of the population lives in chronic food-deficit regions where irregular rainfall causes recurring food shortages. The economy is highly dependent upon agriculture, which provides 85 percent of exports and employs 80 percent of the workforce. The terrain and climate limit the land’s ability to produce sufficient crops to support domestic needs as well as opportunities to market items. Agricultural products include coffee, tea, cotton, cashew nuts, tobacco, cloves, corn, wheat, bananas, fruit, vegetables, cattle, sheep, and goats.

Life expectancy figures have dropped in recent years as the number of HIV and AIDS sufferers has increased. Nearly 1.4 million people are living with HIV and AIDS, while more than 1.1 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease. This has had a direct effect on the nation’s education system. By the time children have reached secondary school age, 92 percent have stopped attending school—usually to provide for their families.

Since 2006, President Kikwete has received much praise across the country and internationally for his role in fighting corruption and investing in massive education reform. During his presidency, more than 1,500 new schools have been built. He has also begun a voluntary HIV and AIDS testing program in Dar es Salaam; he was the first to be tested. Despite the recent improvements, however, Tanzania still has many years of progress ahead.

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World Vision’s history in Tanzania

In 1970, World Vision offered a pastors conference in Dodoma to 550 church leaders. Subsequent opportunities for involvement included feeding programs, farming and livestock training, and pediatric health services. In 1981, the Tanzania field office opened in the city of Arusha.

World Vision continued to work with the Tanzanian people in the 1980s, providing emergency relief projects for people affected by flooding and offering aid to victims of a 1983 cholera epidemic. Additionally, new wells were dug to provide clean water supplies, and economic development assistance centers were opened for training in sewing, typing, poultry keeping, livestock husbandry, and increased crop production.

In 1983, child sponsorship programs launched, benefiting 7,124 children. In the same year, four nonsponsorship development projects and one evangelism project were initiated. Throughout these projects, World Vision’s ministry was centered on community development activities, which included health, clean water, education, agriculture, evangelism, and leadership training. Projects during the latter half of the decade focused on water development, nutrition, basic health care, and the provision of supplies for flood victims. Also in the late 1980s, World Vision began its first HIV and AIDS project in Tanzania. The number of sponsored children rose to just over 25,000, and by 1990 there were 120 projects operating in the country.

In 1991, World Vision began focusing development efforts in communities spread over a large geographic area. Projects offered help in the areas of health-care, immunization, education, modern farming methods, and HIV and AIDS prevention. By 1995, the number of sponsored children rose to 26,758, with a total of 83 active projects in the country. Projects included:
  • The Kahama Community Development Project targeted 63,000 people, offering assistance in agriculture, food production, spiritual growth, and economic development. Through this project, crop yield increased three-fold. A child survival project provided primary health care and immunizations to boys and girls in more than 120 villages.
  • The Kagera HIV and AIDS Project worked with leaders in four villages to educate community and church leaders, teachers, youth groups, women’s groups, and other residents about HIV and AIDS, methods of prevention, and the community’s role in providing care to children orphaned as a result of the disease. Eighty community counselors were trained to provide counseling and home-based care for patients. Training was offered to 80 traditional birth attendants and 80 village health workers to care for orphans. School supplies and uniforms were provided to 400 orphans.
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World Vision in Tanzania today

World Vision is committed to partnering with the people of Tanzania to enhance their lives today and to help enact sustainable solutions for the future of their communities, families, and children. Currently, 116,720 children are registered in the World Vision sponsorship program. Several times this number of children and other family members benefit from World Vision activities. Of these registered children, many have World Vision sponsors in other countries. U.S. donors sponsor more than 25,000 girls and boys. In addition, World Vision operates 60 development programs, 10 of which are supported by U.S. donors. Highlights of these efforts include the following:
  • The Misenyi Community Partnership near Lake Victoria is bettering the health status of community members in 17 villages by improving existing water sources and hygiene practices, as well as increasing the community’s knowledge of environmental conservation. Project leaders plan to form 17 water committees and train them to mobilize resources and oversee funds; train environmental committees in six villages about land and water conservation; and mobilize 23 primary schools, eight churches, and 10 community groups to plant trees.
  • The Ruvu Remiti Dormitory Project in northeastern Tanzania is helping the children of nomads receive a consistent education. Maasai children—particularly girls— are provided with desks and dormitory rooms. Eight dormitories are under construction in three villages, two teachers’ houses have been built, and 1,000 desks have been provided for better student retention and comfort. In addition, committees will be established to manage schools and ensure that girls are being enrolled.
  • The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) was started by World Vision in 1995 as a pilot project to provide microfinance services to productive and entrepreneurial communities that lack adequate fiscal resources. Currently, there are nearly 25,000 borrowers, the majority of whom are women. The average loan size is more than $100, which has allowed thousands of women to sustain their jobs, thus impacting more than 100,000 children. SEDA plans to reach out to more rural families by training staff and investing in appropriate technology.
For further information about World Vision’s programs in Tanzania, please contact the United States office.

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