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First Lady Leads Crusade To Resettle Homeless People

By Daniel Benno Msangya, African Church Information Service (Nairobi), 15 January 2001

Dodoma - According to the Tanzanian Minister of Lands and Habitat Development, Mr. Gideon Cheyo, over 60 percent of the populations in the cities reside in slums. Experts indicate that housing problems in cities are mainly caused by poverty and unemployment.

The local Ministry of Lands and Habitat Development say that in 1988 the total demand for housing to cater for the urban populations was 517,619 units while the housing stock then was 217,575 units, 42 percent of the housing requirements.

This establishes the fact that there was a housing deficit of 300,104 units. The statistics further show that currently there are about 9,745,700 urban dwellers demanding 2,370,404 dwelling units out of which 1,802,785 are demands.

The estimated current annual demand is about 600,000 housing units but the supply of housing is below 20 percent of the extreme requirements.

The Parish Priest at St Paul of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Dodoma Diocese, Rev Ignass Iduri, warns that sharing crowded rooms which is common in most towns denies both parents and children privacy which is a crucial social necessity.

Iduri, a former lecturer at the Major Seminary of Segerea in Dar Es Salaam and expert in Canon Law and Sociology, maintains that the situation causes stress on intimate relations between the couples.

That, he adds, is bound to enhance promiscuity as partners would search for satisfaction outside marriage.

He further cautions that couples living in such conditions are likely to hate their siblings and unleash frustration on them. Dr Julius Aligawesa of Mirembe Psychiatry Department puts it in plainly: (It is like)causing murder or even suicide if parents seek vengeance.

Aligawesa says in extreme cases frustrations can turn tragic. With an experience of 15 years, the psychiatry expert working at the Referral Mirembe Hospital in Dodoma noted that many cases of child abuse are caused by issues related to shelter and large families.

The prevalent form of abuse is physical followed by emotional, with verbal abuse being the commonest, the predominant aspect of which is the use of vulgar language, he says.

Sometimes it is right to feel that the problem of sharing crowded rooms is caused by the high cost of living and an increase of school leavers and dropouts. Then there is also a growing number of university graduates who stay with relatives while searching for employment.

A social scientist in Dodoma region Mr. Andrew Madina believes that most children in slums areas are subjected to some form of involuntary abuse. Lack of space for children to play outside the houses is a very big problem of denial of their freedom and right to play.

Habitat for Humanity Tanzania (HFHT) branch, an organisation with its headquarters based in Dodoma, has come to fulfil the gap by building, renovating and repairing simple, decent and affordable housing. In the last 12 years of its existence in Tanzania it has assisted in building over 1,300 low cost houses mainly in rural areas.

The First Lady of Tanzania, Mrs Anna Mkapa, the National Matron of the organisation says, HFHT, this year has also started assisting the needy in urban areas, citing a request they made for allocation of a block of land to build houses at Kinondoni, Dar Es Salaam Region.

She said the block of plots to contain about 367 medium and low- density plots would allow the construction of about 284 homes for low-income families. Mrs Mkapa further says, for the project to become viable, HFHT needs a minimum of 100 plots.

We are mobilising non-governmental organisations NGOs and business community to see to it that the project does not end in constructing residential houses only, but utilities such as schools and business centres in the crowded areas to cater for the essential needs of the society.

Under the programme, the home owners contribute locally available building materials and unskilled labour while HFHT provides cement, timber, roofing materials, nails and skilled labour.

The cost depends on materials used. The houses cost HFHT between TShs500,000 and TShs 900,000, which is equivalent to some US$ 700 and 1,000.

The first news on Habitat for Humanity International HFHI arrived in Tanzania almost twenty years ago. The Anglican Bishop, Rt Rev Bishop Gerard Mpango of the Western Tanganyika Diocese brought with him the message from Uganda where he attended an International Episcopal Conference of the Anglican Church.

A committee was formed at the beginning of 1985 to start an affiliate based in town of Kasulu, Kigoma Region in the western part of Tanzania. There were frequent visits and correspondence with international headquarters based in New York. Later, in 1986, the project received approval from the HFHT board of directors in the United States.

According to the former HFHT Country Representative Mr. Tim Iddle, things went relatively slow at the beginning but in subsequent years the project has expanded rapidly.

In 1996, the project operated in 14 villages as well as in Kasulu town, the District Centre in Kigoma Region. The process of expansion continues in eight regions including Dodoma, Tanga, Dar Es Salaam, Tabora, Mbeya, Mwanza, Mara and Kigoma.

HFHT has been supplying these materials to people on a ten-year revolving loan, indexed to price of cement. Sometimes it has been necessary for skilled labour to be part of the loan in order for people to complete their homes.

Originally, the roofing was corrugated iron but since 1991 cement tiles have been supplied and encouraged, primarily on the grounds that they are significantly cheaper, more durable and much better insulators from the heat and noise of rain.

In order to obtain the materials, the project has started three small local factories to make the tiles since there was no place around to produce them. The project in Kasulu has attracted many people because they have become aware of what is going on.

The overwhelming interest has led to another project at Matyazo, about 75 kilometres from Kasulu. This new project operates on the similar principle as the one in Kasulu.

According to HFHT officials in Dodoma, the international partner at the Kasulu project was given the task to facilitate the start of other projects in 1993 and this led - after some months - to two more affiliates at Nkinga in Central Tanzania and Liuli in the extreme south west of Tanzania.