WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHAT ARE ITS EFFECT ON OUR PLANET? PART 2

By Gabriel Andre – Art in Tanzania internship

TANZANIA, A DEVELOPING COUNTRY IN THE MIDST OF AN ECOLOGICAL SHIFT  

Economic and demographic development

Source 

Þ General introduction 

Tanzania is lauded as one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa. Since its independence, the country has moved to a multi-party democracy that allows a separation of powers. Tanzania, being the mainland, has an Island called Zanzibar.  Tanzanian’s economic development largely depends on agriculture. Since the 1990’s, the country has had strong economic growth and was predicted to be one of the fastest economic growth in the world. Nevertheless, it is one of the poorest economies in Africa in terms of per capita incomes, and the overall growth rate is due to the growth of the tourism sectors (safaris, Zanzibar recreational facilities) and gold mining. Most of the people that I have met here have been a tour guide for at least one or two years.  It is the case for example of Hadija, who started as a day trip tour guide for Art in Tanzania and has now become a team leader in social sector projects. Tourism is the second pillar of the Tanzanian economy as it provides employment to many jobless people. The development of tourism has led to the improvement of the infrastructures of regions with tourist accommodations. Tanzania expects about 750,000 tourists to arrive in the country every year according to the United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP). 

The main export commodities include gold, tobacco, fish products, coffee, cotton, diamonds, horticulture, and sisal. Tanzania’s main trading partner are China, Switzerland, South Africa, Kenya, and India. 

Agave sisalana, known as Sisal, is a plant native to southern Mexico. It’s a very resistant fiber is widely used for ropers, fabrics, or carpets.

Þ Religions  

The country of Tanzania is mainly composed of two religions: Christianity and Muslim.

Both religions live in perfect harmony thanks to Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere. Each religion is respectful to the other beliefs. The island of Zanzibar is mainly composed of Muslims representing 96% of its population. 

Þ Demographic development 

On October 24th, 2020, Tanzania’s population was estimated at 59 million whereas on July 1st, 2015 it was at 52 million. Due to high birth rates in the country, on March 18th, 2021, the total population approached t0 61,006,138 which represents 0.77 % of the total world population. In 6 years, Tanzania’s population has seen an increase of 8 million people whereas during the same period the French population has an increase of less than 1 million. Around 37% of the Tanzania’s population is urban. 

Also, 44% of the population constitutes of people under the age of 15, 52 % between 15 and 64 and 3.1 % is above 64 years old. Tanzania is built through a variety of cultures and traditions whereas the country is divided into 120 ethnicities, Sukuma being the largest one representing 16% of the total population.  Despite aids and grants from the IMF, Tanzania is still dependent on foreign countries due its serious debt. It has an external debt of about $USD 7.9 billion and the debt servicing constitutes about 40% of the government expenditures. In order to repay this debt, the country is forced to qualify for loans from other countries. Adelaide Mkwawa, ICT and Communications Officer at Climate Action Network Tanzania is preoccupied by Tanzanian debt “A lot of aids are coming from other countries such as Switzerland, USA, China but it’s more to have a position in the country then to help. Tanzanians are really dependent on every domain on foreign aids”.  

One of the main concerns in Tanzania is the eradication of poverty. According to the World Bank data, in 2017, 49.4 % of Tanzania’s population were living under the 1.90$ per day (the price per day in 2011) which is almost half of the population. The absence of resources to conduct surveys engender difficulties for the World Bank to grasp data updates. In this same year, the World Bank announced that 76.8 % of Tanzanians were under the 3.20 $ a day poverty headcount ratio (PPP in 2011) and 91.80 % under the 5.50 $ one’s. As a comparison, France’s 5.50$ poverty headcount ratio in 2017 is under the 0.1%. 

Source 

The development of trade in Tanzania has played a key role in eradicating poverty in the country since the private sector controls the growth of the national economy. Major imports include capital goods, intermediate goods, and consumer goods with trading partners such as the USA, China, Norway, UK, Finland, Kenya and Zambia. Trade has led to the attraction of foreign investors due to its proof of the availability of political stability and natural gas discoveries. On the other hand, Tanzania is becoming more dependent on those countries’ financial investments.  

Þ Environmental politics in Tanzania

Non-Banking financial Institutions and non-governmental organizations play a key role in the deployment of free education to citizens especially to women in the rural areas to make them aware of what is going on in the economy and the environmental issues. The Tanzanian government has established environment sections in all its ministers and a key result of it is the integration of environmental issues into the Medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) budgeting. This money should help NGOs working for the climate to play a major role. Nevertheless, Adelaide Mkwawa has never seen those governments funds when she was at the United National Appeal Tribunal (UNAT) or at the Climate action Network (CAN) where she currently works nowadays. Same conclusion for Hadija, Team leader at Art in Tanzania, non-governmental organization who promotes volunteer and intern projects in the field of climate change, education, social work, medical and health practices, social media, arts and music, sports, and HIV/AIDS awareness. “For my experiences, I’ve never heard if there were any funds from the government to Art in Tanzania which can help on environmental projects. Maybe the government planned to provide funds to NGOs, but the fund didn’t reach Art in Tanzania yet. It’s my hope that if there are some funds for NGOs, then Art in Tanzania will be among those NGOs to be considered”, Hadija said. 

The biggest problem regarding environmental policies is the lack of information and communication. The government doesn’t provide any information about the strategies nor about any concrete actions put in place. Most of the research I’ve done guided me to environmental information provided by other countries or institutions (U.S Agency for international development, United Nations Environment Program, Netherland’s government, etc.) or from the last government environment data updates, which was in 2013. For more recent information, it’s necessary to talk directly with a government employees, but as you can imagine, it’s even harder than to see a cheetah in a safari.  According to Adelaide Mkwawa, even the Parliamentarian Assembly for Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (Parliaments Assembly) has given information and strategies on how to implement the SDG’s in the government budget. That’s where the UNAT’s helps come to a limit.  After this, the government takes responsibility for the project. “That’s why there is a lack of information and monitoring. Really hard to find the progress because the government hides a lot of info,” said Adelaide. 

 

Þ Corruption

The African Union estimates that corruption around Africa represents $50 billions of losses each year. Lots of changes have been made in all African countries to eradicate corruption. Legislation has been drafted and anti-corruption authorities have been formed. However, on the ground, approximately everywhere and especially in Tanzania, nothing seems to have changed. Corruption is a noneconomic factor which creates a gap among the Tanzanians’ people. Since 1968, with the creation of the Anti-corruption commissions in Africa (Bertelsmann foundation 2014), Tanzania has tried to combat corruption. Most of Tanzanian’s presidents ‘ mandates were standing on the fight against corruption. In 1995, President Benjamin Mkapa declared “war” to corruption, and he organized the Presidential commission against corruption to assess the state for corruption and highlight some recommendations. This led to the adoption of the National Anti-Corruption strategy and Action plan (NASCAP) in 1999 and to the implementation of a revised NASCAP from the new president Jakaya Kikwete in 2005. At the end of 2014, a new report was made with a new anti-corruption strategy. All that information proves that, at the end of 2015, corruption had risen compared to 2005 and was less transparent than ever. Despite the government’s efforts, Tanzania continues to suffer badly from rampant corruption at all levels. Good governance is essential for the reduction of poverty and controlling corruption in the country. Tanzania faces both grand and petty corruption due to weak government laws in different agencies. Most of the foreign investors have stated that corruption in areas like taxation, customs service, and procurement, create a difficult environment for them to do business in the country, due to the high demand for bribery. 

Source 

The diagram above shows us the corruption rate level from low (=1) to high (=6). Tanzania is parts of the countries that observe the highest rate of corruption. In a comparison, the USA and France are not even listed in the World Bank dataset because their respectful rate is under 1. Cape Verde and Bhutan are the two countries who faced the highest corruption with a 4.5 rate. 

New president Magafuli, like his predecessors, has made the fight against corruption a point of honor of his mandates.  Nicknamed “the Bulldozer” because of its style of leadership earned himself credibility for its fight against corruption. He rebuilt lost trusts with foreigners’ donors and with his population by firing publics officials that was incompetent and corrupt. In November and December 2016, six senior officials in the Tanzania Revenue Authority were fired and pushed away. 

Unfortunately, president Magafuli was fighting alone in this battle and against top officials, influential leaders and wealthy powerful people.  Despite the efforts and the hope Magafuli was bringing to Tanzanian’s people, corruption is still one of the main problems in Tanzania. As a personal example, I was able to see and experience this drama of corruption through my trip by car between the city of Arusha and the city of Moshi. In only 3 hours, we were stopped no less than 9 times without any reason, and we had to pay between 1000 and 4000 schillings each time. This represents between 50 cents and 2 euros. Sometimes the bill is more expensive, sometimes they let you pass, it’s random. With 91.8 % of the population living with less than 5.5 USD per day and 48.9% under the 1.9USD, corruption is a disaster. 

Unfortunately, President Magafuli passed away on this Wednesday, 17 of March 2021 at the age of 61 years old. For instance, vice-president, Samia Suhulu Hassan was sworn in as a president and became the first East African country’s female president. Because of Magafuli 21 days of mourning, President Hassan didn’t expose yet her strategy to avoid Tanzania corruption. 

Sectors Promoting Economic Development of Tanzania

Þ Agriculture

As the main economic activity of Tanzania, agriculture contributes to 26% of the GDP and employs about 75% of the labor force. Agriculture, being the key sector of the economy, assists in poverty reduction especially in the rural areas where most people cannot afford to buy food nor have any food security. Not only does agriculture provide employment opportunities but also provides 95% of the food to the people. During the 1990s, agriculture was mainly controlled by the government but after the liberalization of the economy, many people engaged freely in this activity. Some areas received enough rainfall throughout the year making it easy for cultivation while other areas are prone to tsetse flies which badly affect the production of crops. 

The lack of access to the banking sector makes it difficult for farmers to obtain loans to carry out their production since only 9% have access to financial services and only 4% are able to obtain loans. Small holder farmers have low education and knowledge resulting in poor quality of crops. This causes the crops to fetch low prices in the markets. Tanzania depends on export of cash crops which increases revenue. Since the 20th century, the main exported commodity is coffee and each year 30 to 40,000 metric tons are being produced whereby 30% is Robusta and 70% is Arabica. But none of this coffee is consumed by Tanzanian people, as they prefer cheaper and low-quality coffee.  About $115 million is generated from coffee exportations. Coffee consumption is at 7% of its total production in the national output (Gupta & Bose, 2019).

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), only 24% only out of the 44 million hectares of land have been utilized for the cultivation of crops. Moreover, the existence of water resources, favorable climatic conditions and fertile lands have led to a decrease in poverty condition.

Challenges facing the agriculture sector include:

  • High rainfall dependency and low irrigation process
  • Lack of agricultural knowledge and low level of technology such as use of ploughs
  • Lack of financial access to obtain farm inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides
  • Low quality of agricultural production resulting in crops fetching low market prices
  • Lack of storage facilities and poor infrastructure in the rural areas making it difficult to transport commodities to be processed and sold

To face these challenges, the government created the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank.  This bank was established in 2015 to ensure the implementation of agricultural policies and strategies guiding the performance of the sector in general. Agriculture is also the first sector badly affected by climate change. Without help and innovations in the next 20 years, Tanzania will probably face a decrease of 80% of its actual production, which will plunge the country into deep poverty. 

Þ Mining industry 

Mining is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Tanzanian economy. In 2013 it contributed to about 3.3% of the country’s GDP, largely changing the economic growth of Tanzania. The country is endowed with various mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, gemstones, nickel, coal, tanzanite, and uranium. Natural gas exploration of about 55 trillion cubic feet has been discovered, helping to supply electricity in the country. UK, India, China, USA, South Africa, Kenya, Netherlands, Oman, Canada, and Germany are the main investors in the Tanzanian mining sector. Like in many countries around the globe, the mining sector demonstrates multiple challenges for climate change such as health security and illegal practices. Here are some examples of the impacts of the Mining Sector in Tanzania: 

  • Silica dust affecting the miners as well as tuberculosis disease
  • Existence of illegal mining in the country creating risk to the workers
  • Previous Minister of Mining and Energy resource was found guilty after conducting frauds deals and supplying gold to some firms
  • Child labor employed in mines

There was a serious case on the 17th of April 2015, where 19 people were killed after the collapse of an illegal mine near the Bulyanhulu Gold mine in the Kahama district. Many children were rescued from the same collapse. Most of the developed countries involved in the Tanzanian mining sector, already know these problems but the economic interest is too high to politically be involved in the reduction of those challenges. 

Þ Financial sector 

Rural areas in Tanzania do not have access to the banking sector because people do not own valuable assets which would support loan extensions. There is also the lack of education on how banks operate. Most of the rural population have a day-to-day life, only using cash and have no use of credit cards. Even people with a reasonable income mainly use cash. Indeed, if you have a flow ,even low, of cash entering your bank account, then institutions know that you are running a business and then lots of fees appear. That’s why most people use cash in their daily lives and apart from tourist’s facilities, credit cards are not accepted. 

Þ Transport sector 

Transport is very important in any economy to facilitate smooth trade. Tanzanian roads are maintained under the management of an agency called TANROADS “Tanzanian Roads” which has been able to improve the national roads. Road safety still remains a major problem due to poor maintenance of vehicles, overloading, flooding, and poor driving. Tanzania is planning to import about 138 Chinese modern buses into Dar es Salaam. This is due to the support provided by the government through the improvement of the marine transports by modernizing ports and increase spending on infrastructure. The port currently collects over TZS 40 billion per month which represents almost 18 million euros.

WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHAT ARE ITS EFFECT ON OUR PLANET? PART 1.2 

By Gabriel Andre – Art in Tanzania internship

Welcome to part 1.2 in our new climate change blog series.

What are the main consequences of climate change and the risks to our survival? 

The first consequence of climate change is obviously the rise in temperature and the harmful consequences of heat on biodiversity. But why do we keep hearing that we must not exceed the “2 degrees more” of the Paris Agreement by 2100?

Þ Temperature rise and disruption of the water cycle

Source

Indeed, the storage capacity of water in the atmosphere varies according to its temperature. As the temperature increases, the storage capacity increases. As the temperature rises, evaporation is prevalent, and the amount of water stored as water vapor increases. As a result, rainfall is more abundant and there is an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events (especially in mid-latitudes and humid tropics). Warmer air can also contain more water vapor and therefore intensifies extreme phenomena’s such as cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons. There is no need to recall the human tragedies caused by hurricanes Sandy (2012), Irma (2017) or Hurricane Harvey (2017).

Þ Melting ice zones 

Global warming leads to the melting of ice zones (glaciers, ice caps, ice pack) with different consequences. Melting glaciers impact freshwater reserves because by melting too quickly, they no longer fulfil their role as reservoirs that gradually release freshwater at steady intervals. Freshwater is drinkable and is a vital need for animals and humans on a daily basis. Today, the demand for water exceeds the quantity available, which is already a major geopolitical issue in many dry regions of the world. In addition, the melting of these glaciers releases fresh water which then flows into rivers, seas, and oceans, causing water levels to rise. The melting of the ice sheets, huge areas of ice resting on land whose height can reach several thousand meters, would be devastating if they were to melt entirely.  

On our planet, there are only two ice sheets:

  • The northern part of Greenland, which has existed for 3 million years
  • The southern part of Antarctica, which is the largest, and has exist for 30 million years.  Given the thousands of meters of thickness of the ice sheets, their complete melting would raise the sea level by 7 meters for Greenland, 54 meters for Antarctica, consequently causing the disappearance of many islands (such as the Maldives) and the relocation of a large part of the coastal population.

Þ Our forests are dying’s

As we have seen with the carbon cycle, forests today are a very important for sequestering carbon. As living matter, flora is composed of carbon and thanks to photosynthesis, it absorbs atmospheric CO₂ to transform it into oxygen. Conversely, when the forest dies or in the event of deforestation, the decomposition of plants leads to the emission of CO₂. The same is true when fires ravage forests: combustion releases into the atmosphere all the CO₂ that was then stored and stabilized. 

With climate change, we are witnessing: 

  1. a warming of the air and soil temperature, destabilizing ecosystems, and biodiversity, 
  2. periods of drought and flooding that can deplete soils and kill the biosphere,   
  3. a significant increase in fire outbreaks and intensity. 

These three phenomena’s, which are consequences of climate change, lead to the decline of plants. Those that survive will have a poorer capacity to absorb CO₂ and those that die will decompose releasing CO₂. Thus, the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere increases, fueling global warming which in turn feeds the three causes listed above. Between the Australian forests going up in smoke in the summer of 2019, and President Bolsonaro’s efforts to deforest the Amazon as quickly as possible, we are not talking about a hypothetical situation. The latter said, in opposition to pressure from European countries, to act to slow the fires in the Amazon “Brazil owes no debt to the planet in terms of environmental preservation”, he said during a conference in Santiago Chile on May 23rd of 2019. 

Þ The two climate time bombs 

Thawing permafrost

Permafrost refers to ground that is permanently frozen, i.e., at a temperature that has never been above 0 for at least two years. Permafrost is found on about 20% of the planet’s surface, notably in Greenland, Alaska, Canada and Russia. It is even found in France, in the Alps.

The huge problem with permafrost is that it contains elements that have been locked in the ice for thousands of years. To take an image, permafrost is like a huge freezer. If you leave the freezer door open, your pizza thaws, your ice cream melts and microbes feed on these organic elements. Similarly, as the permafrost melts, it releases organic matter which, when subjected to the activity of microbes, produces CO₂ in the presence of oxygen or methane in an oxygen-free environment. These GHGs would then enter the atmosphere and accelerate global warming. 

The potential for releasing GHGs from permafrost is colossal: we are talking about 1500 Gt, i.e., twice the amount of GHGs already present in the atmosphere. This would triple the concentration! Just imagine the additional greenhouse effect that would be generated. In this sense, the melting of a large part of the permafrost constitutes one of the two “climate bombs” from which it would probably be impossible to recover.  Another important consequence is that permafrost also contains diseases that have been dormant for hundreds or thousands of years. If the permafrost melts, it could release them and create major health crises. 

For example, in 2016, an Anthrax outbreak killed several humans and over 2,300 reindeer in Siberia. The disease had disappeared for more than 75 years in the region.

It reappeared with the melting of permafrost, which kept the corpse of reindeer that had died of the disease (and thus its deadly bacteria) frozen. Anthrax can be treated with the antibiotics; however, this would not necessarily be the case for all the other viruses that we do not know or do not know how to treat. The risk of epidemics or outbreaks of disease is very high. The risk of epidemics or pandemics much worse the Covid 19 is also very real consequence of climate change.

Methane Hydrate 

Another potential ‘climate bomb’ is methane hydrate. These are methane molecules trapped in ice. They are found in large quantities:

  • Under permafrost
  • At the bottom of the oceans, in ocean sediments.

For the moment, this methane is stored in these reservoirs in a stable manner. It’s difficult to estimate the exact quantities, but we are talking about 10,000 Gt, which is 7 times more than all the GHGs contained in the permafrost, and therefore 21 times more than all the GHGs currently present in the atmosphere!

Unfortunately, if current warming exceeds the famous 2-degree mark, these molecules could become unstable. As the permafrost melts or the oceans warm up, methane hydrate would come into contact with higher temperatures. The unstable probability of these molecules becomes significant with a 2 degree rise in temperature. In this case, the molecules can dissociate, and the methane can escape directly into the atmosphere. Given the titanic volume of methane we are talking about, it is easy to understand the devastating consequences for global warming and life on Earth.

There are many other devastating effects caused by global warming, such as the acidification of our oceans, possibly causing the disappearance of its aquatic fauna and flora; modified ocean currents, reducing the capture of CO2; or the Albedo effect, which is the mechanism of absorption and reflection of light energy that will be less and less effective because of the ice melting.  We therefore understand that it is imperative to act quickly for our survival and to avoid scenarios such as the melting of the permafrost or islands like the Maldives which is being buried by the rising waters. As climate scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jean Jouzel says, “Global warming, as it would be if nothing is done, is another world.” It is a world where, according to the UN, there will be at least 150 million climate refugees. It is a world where southern Europe would resemble to Sahara with temperatures approaching 50 degrees in the summer in France. It is a world where by 2070, 1 billion people will be living in areas where almost every day of the year, outdoor conditions will be lethal.  

But if a country like France would be like the Sahara in the summer, what can a country like Tanzania, which already experiences temperatures of over 40 degrees from November to March, expect? What would be the impact of global warming on a population where more than 80% of the people live only on agriculture and are totally dependent on the climate?

The value of using GDH to the country, especially Tanzania

James Mathew Mgaya – Art in Tanzania internship

The nine domains of GNH

To many GDH is new terminology but it bears most important value to the countries. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a measurement of the collective happiness in a nation. Gross national happiness (GNH) is a measure of economic and moral progress that the king of the Himalayan country of Bhutan introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to gross domestic product. The kingdom of Bhutan’s first legal code, written at the time of unification in 1729, stated that “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government.”. GNH has nine domain pillars of measurement which current work internationally. These pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifest in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience. In simple understanding is that the country that prefer people than self government interest by living with peace and harmony towards its citizens.

The value of GNH?

Encourage investment; the country with good Gross Domestic Happiness mean it will attract more foreign direct investment which will contribute to GNP (Gross Domestic Product) of the certain country. By FDI means more foreign investors will start their business in Tanzania and increase our national revenue. Moreover, it also encourages entrepreneurship and establishment of new companies and enterprises own by local resident (Tanzanians). Valuation of currency; increase of value of the currency like Tanzanian shillings depend on interest rate, exports and imports , the purchasing power of currency in internationally, foreign exchange reserves that means amount of currency held by foreign governments. Simply, the value of currency increases according to it circulation money within international borders by good diplomatic relation through international trade/financing/business. Which GDH can give you that good standard of living means available market, purchasing power of consumer and good money circulation. Good diplomatic relation internationally; GNH gives good governance and psychological well being this means the government can have good relationships to neighbouring countries and international collaborations to economically, politically, and socially. In psychological wellbeing means government through its resources can ensure life satisfactory in some degree of it services which create peace and harmony among the citizens. Mentally stable country bring relief to nearby countries and allow friendship due to available labour force, no political unrest which attract more investment to multinational companies and international relationship. Increase of production nationally; GDH gives that the government could build into its public policy decisions like good governance and sustainable development This is when government focus in public good to boost they are citizen economy and infrastructures like in Tanzania strategic cities projects which give formal and informal employment to the citizens. Building transportations means to the citizen to increase production from the farmers toward the producers, availability of water and electricity to the rural areas which stimulate production and lead to urbanisation of rural areas which bring closure factories to available raw material due to availability of public goods. Increase of national income; for citizen to enjoy their government the need sustainable income, example in Tanzania they use strategic project to build infrastructure of public goods like roads, railways, bridges aviation and marine transports. This is life satisfactory to the citizens by means of transportation, but it has income good side to government and individuals. It creates formal and informal employment to the citizens and at same time create income through toll like bridge toll at Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam creates income, air Tanzania can create national income, also marine transport in lake zones create employment and national income. If citizens are happy with their government, it means no political unrest and its national income will thrive.

The verdict

There so much to talk about the Gross Domestic Happiness and the things can offer if considered. It is an alternative to Gross Domestic Product which it rather than focusing strictly on quantitative economic measures, gross national happiness considers an evolving mix of quality-of-life factors. The centre provides an overview of national performance across these pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifest in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, education, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience.

COVID-19 Delta Variant

By Gwamaka Mwakyusa – Art in Tanzania internship

Delta variant, a strain of Covid-19 that wreaked havoc during India’s second wave, has been identified in at least 85 countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the delta covid variant is the most transmissible of all the variants identified so far. Acknowledging the contagious nature of the delta Covid-19 variant that was first identified in India, the WHO on June 25 urged vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.

The delta variant, or B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India in October 2020, has now become the dominant strain in the UK, currently accounting for more than 90% of coronavirus cases there. Meanwhile, in the US, the delta variant accounts for more than a third of new cases, according to Financial Times analysis. The former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told ‘CBS News’ Face the Nation’ that the United States is likely to witness “very dense outbreaks” due to the delta variant.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that delta accounted for 20.6% of all Covid-19 cases between June 5 and June 19.

This surge has led Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the White House, to label the variant as the “greatest threat” to the country’s attempt to eradicate Covid-19.

Both the UK and US have high vaccination rates, and it remains to be seen whether their populations are protected against this Covid strain. But in much of the rest of the world, where Covid-19 vaccines have not been administered at the same level, the concerns are even greater.

Covid delta variant on WHO’s radar

On June 25, the World Health Organization’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove in a press conference said that the delta variant is a dangerous virus. “It is more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was extremely transmissible across Europe, across any country that it entered. The Delta variant is even more transmissible,” she explained during the conference.

Thus far, there are four “variants of concern” flagged by the WHO and seven “variants of interest.” Despite the strain being identified last year, the delta variant was tagged as a variant of concern only on May 11. This is because the WHO uses three parameters—increased transmissibility, more virulence, and decreased effectiveness of public health measures—to determine its seriousness.

The delay is also because there wasn’t enough genome sequencing data coming from India during its brutal second wave. Now, data from the Public Health England (PHE), the UK government’s health executive arm, have given scientists and public health experts around the world some ability to make sense of this Covid-19 variant.

What is the delta variant?

When Covid-19 infections broke out in Wuhan, China, that first strain was a “wild type” virus. This was the strain used by scientists across the world to develop testing kits, treatment plans, and even Covid vaccines.

It is in the nature of viruses to mutate, and it did. But not all mutations are serious, and usually do not require countries to reimagine their public health measures.

The variants of concern—Alpha (first identified in the UK), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil), and Delta—are different from all other countless variants for this very reason.

The delta variant has certain significant mutations in the spike protein of the virus—the pointy elements that give it the shape of a crown (which is why it’s called the coronavirus). These spikes are like hooks that have to find the receptors in a human cell to link with. Studies have shown that these spikes hook onto receptors called ACE-2. Once these spike proteins can unlock the cells, the infection spreads by replicating the genetic code of the virus.

Some key mutations in the delta variant—such as the E484Q, L452R, and P614R—make it easier for the spikes in the virus to attach to ACE-2 receptors. This means it can infect and replicate faster, and even evade the body’s natural disease-fighting immunity more efficiently.

The spike protein mutations make the delta variant the “fastest and fittest” variant yet, according to the WHO. The disease caused by this variant might also exhibit different symptoms than other viral mutations. Those infected with the delta variant develop symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, and a runny nose, replacing cough and loss of taste or smell like the most common symptoms.

Is the delta variant more transmissible?

“Most studies indicate delta is 50-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant,” says Dr. Bhramar Mukherjee, associate director for quantitative data sciences at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. “The Alpha variant itself was nearly 50-60% more transmissible than the original strain.”

This, according to Mukherjee, implies that if the reproduction number for the original strain was around 2.4-2.6, the one for Alpha is 3.6-4.2, and for delta, it is 5.6-6.7. In layman terms, if a person infected with the original strain could infect nearly two people, a person with the Alpha variant could infect four people. With delta, one person could infect nearly seven other people. It’s important to remember that these are averages, not absolute numbers; one delta carrier might infect zero people, or 25.

Its higher reproduction number is likely why entire families in crowded Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai were infected together. It would also explain the tsunami-like surge of cases in the country in April and May.

The other consequence of a higher reproduction number (denoted as R in epidemiological data) in an epidemic is that it increases the threshold for herd immunity. That is, more people will need to have the antibodies—either through infection or vaccination—to be protected as a community against the delta variant. “With an R of 2.5, the threshold for herd immunity is 60%, but with an R of 6, it is 83%,” explains Mukherjee.

Do vaccines work against the delta variant?

According to the CDC, studies show that the currently authorized vaccines which include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson or Janssen work on the circulating variants.

Dr. Gautam Menon, professor at the departments of physics and biology at Ashoka University in India said, “It is reasonably certain that the delta variant also exhibits some immune escape, although estimates vary as to the extent.” For instance, single doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to data from the UK, are only 33% efficacious against the disease.

But there is hope that those who are fully vaccinated are reasonably protected against serious disease. According to data from PHE, Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is 96% effective, and the AstraZeneca vaccine 92% effective against hospitalizations after two doses. These, PHE says, are comparable to efficacy against the Alpha variant.

This also means that getting a large part of the population fully vaccinated is crucial for countries where the delta variant is prevalent. For countries like the US, where nearly half the population is fully vaccinated, scientists suspect a varied impact of the delta variant. “I would expect some breakthrough infections and transmission happening even in highly vaccinated areas in the US, but would not expect a spike in hospitalizations and deaths,” Mukherjee says.

“We cannot be complacent with a large percentage only partially vaccinated, dropping masks and Covid-appropriate behaviors,” she adds. “We need full vaccination for a large fraction to fight the delta variant.” She also expects that in pockets of the US with lower vaccine coverage, cases of delta variant could rise.

Experts from WHO reiterated that the delta variant is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations. However, the health agency quickly noted that “vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the delta variants.

Can masks keep the delta variant in check?

Public health experts are investigating whether booster shots of vaccines will be needed to protect the population against the new variant.

Hence, the WHO is once again highlighting the need to wear masks. “Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, during a briefing at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, [practice] hand hygiene, [maintain] physical distance, avoid crowding,” she said,

Although Covid cases in the US have been steadily declining as vaccination rates are going up, it might be reaching an impasse. Joe Biden had set a target of immunizing 70% of adult Americans by July 4, but the country will fall short, reaching 67% of all eligible adults. Some 20% Americans say they don’t want to get the vaccine.

What is the delta plus variant?

The delta variant has developed a new mutation of a type that was first found in the Beta variant. The new variant—which is being labeled delta plus, though not officially by the WHO yet—additionally has the K417N mutation in its spike protein, which is associated with increased immunity escape.

Shahid Jameel, a top virologist in India, has said that delta plus could also render cocktail antibody treatments—like the one given to former US president Donald Trump—ineffective in fighting the disease. This variant could also potentially lead to vaccines being less effective. India has officially flagged delta plus a “variant of concern,” though after a great deal of indecision.

Menon says the delta plus variant is not a cause for worry yet but would be “if it began to replace the existing variants.” “Currently, there is no evidence that this is the case,” he says, “so there is no cause for immediate worry, but this may change, and we should be watchful for this.”

Mukherjee warns that India, where 40% of the population is below the age of 17 and not eligible for vaccines, needs to adhere to strong public health interventions to control the coronavirus pandemic. Besides scaling up vaccinations, she suggests better studies around the variants, an area where India has been particularly slow. “We need to study properties of these variants: what the clinical manifestations are, whether our diagnostic tests work well to detect them, whether treatments work well.”

The delta plus variant has now been detected in at least nine countries, including the UK, US, China, and Japan.

Bagamoyo Port

By Alessandro Deligios – Art in Tanzania internship

In recent years China has been using their economic power to take more influence in the geopolitical arena. In accordance with the future model of geo-economic competition, China firstly, seems try to and become the leader State in Asia. Second, they are taking more power in many areas of the world. One of the strategies to extend their influence is by the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). This strategy focuses on financing projects in different areas of the world. China is able to deeply link the economy of various countries to theirs and are creating a global economic network that have Chinese economic and financial system as reference – the so-called Beijing consensus.

In particular China is focusing on East Africa and in this region Tanzania-China relationship is a key for Beijing to get a strategic economic position. In 2013 the former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete signed an agreement allowing China to invest in the financing of Bagamoyo port project, around which it should have place a special economic zone. China is expected to have special conditions such as water and energy provisions and security, as well as Tanzania wouldn’t have financing from another competitor port. But in January 2016 the project has been annulled by the President John Magufuli because the agreement for him was like selling Tanzania to Chinese investors.

In climate discussion we know that African countries are the most affected by the problem brought by climate changes, especially by the global warming. The continent probably will be exposed to longer periods of drought and water provision will be always more difficult. In regard to climate change, it is also known that China is one of the major countries that release the highest levels of greenhouse gases. Despite the attempts of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 and started in 2005, and the Paris Agreement in 2016, emissions have not yet been limited in a satisfactory way. Developed countries have the responsibility to help the development in ecological transitions and the GEF (Global Environment Facility), a program managed by the UN and the Word Bank that give financing to developing countries to help in getting positive results related to four areas: climate changes, desertification, international water pollution, and biodiversity. Good results are got in third and fourth areas, but not in the first two.

At the start of April 2021, the First Minister Geoffrey Mwambe said that Tanzania would be ready for a new agreement about Bagamoyo port project if terms will be changed: in this Tanzania-China relations can be central for the ecological transition of all of Africa. Tanzania could advance conditions for the project according to the UN 2030 Agenda of sustainability goals, cooperating with others African countries for doing the same with others Chinese investments in Africa, when possible. With high chance China is interested in extending their economic influence in Africa to get more global diplomatic weight to be disposed to accept conditions of sustainability for her projects. It could be one of the few ways for China to do that – but not the only, other countries that would like investing in Africa – massively reduce their emissions. This will be more powerful based on how many countries will collaborate. It should be a priority, as it is important for fast growing economies to develop sustainably and must pressure developed countries, especially on China as big global players are trying to extend their own powers.

Sources:

– (About climate issue and international relations)

J. Grieco, G. J. Ikenberry, M. Mastanduno, Introduzione alle relazioni internazionali, UTET, 2017

– (About Bagamoyo port project)

D, Ayemba, Bagamoyo port project timeline and all you need to know, 15 April 2021, on Construction Review Online, https://constructionreviewonline.com/project-timelines/bagamoyo-port-project-timeline-and-all-you-need-to-know/.

P. Mittal, Tanzanian Bagamoyo Port Project Story, 16 September 2020, on Belt and Road News, https://www.beltandroad.news/2020/09/16/tanzanian-bagamoyo-port-project-story/.

A. D’Amaro, Un ponte tra Cina e Africa: il porto di Bagamoyo, Tanzania, 8 September 2020, on Lo Spiegone, https://lospiegone.com/2020/09/08/un-ponte-tra-cina-e-africa-il-porto-di-bagamoyo-tanzania/ .

Tropical Diseases in Africa – Malaria

by Shravya Murali – Art in Tanzania internship

As a significant health problem in several tropical regions of the world, malaria costs almost 435,000 lives annually. A substantial fraction of these deaths occurs in Africa. The proportion of cases and deaths In Tanzania alone constitutes to 3% of those globally. Over the past few years, the number of malaria cases have been on the rise, with a staggering increase by 3.5 million from 2016 to 2017 as reported by the WHO.

How does malaria spread?

Malaria in humans is caused by four kinds of parasites from the Plasmodium genus – Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium malariae. A fifth species Plasmodium knowlesi, is a zoonotic species infecting animals. Of the five species, P.falciparum results in the most severe form of malaria and is responsible for the majority of malaria-related deaths, especially among children below the age of five.

Malaria is transmitted to humans through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito that is infected by one of the malaria-causing parasites. The Anopheles mosquito can also spread the parasite from a human to another human when it feeds on an infected human’s blood meal, and later goes to bite another human.

Human-to-human transmission can also occur through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or sharing needles containing contaminated blood as the malaria parasite can be found on red blood cells. Malaria can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her child before or during delivery, which is also known as congenital malaria.

However, malaria is not contagious and cannot be transmitted through casual contact (i.e., by sitting next to someone infected) or sexual contact.

What are the effects of the disease?

Those infected with malaria often experience flu like illnesses and fever. Symptoms often include headache, fatigue, chills, muscle soreness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. As malaria can cause a loss of red blood cells it may lead to anemia, and jaundice, which is the yellow colouring of skin and eyes. If left untreated malaria becomes life-threatening as it can cause kidney failure, mental confusion, seizures, coma, and death. Usually, these symptoms occur about 10 days after a malaria infection.

Malaria caused by P.vivax and P.ovale may occur again and the parasites may reside in the liver for up to around four years after an individual has been bitten by an Anopheles mosquito. These dormant parasites may become active later and invade the individual’s red blood cells, causing another malarial infection.

How is malaria treated?

If a patient is suspected to be infected with malaria, a drop of his/her blood is often observed under a microscope to detect the malaria parasite. Treatments for malaria vary based on the severity of malaria, clinical status of the patient, the Plasmodium species causing the infection, and prior use of anti-malarial drugs.

In Mainland Tanzania, artemether lumefantrine, a drug that can be orally consumed, is used for uncomplicated malaria. In Zanzibar, however, artesunate and amodiaquine are used. For severe malaria, artesunate and quinine are injected in patients in both Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. Quinine is another drug that is only used when other drugs are ineffective, as quinine is known to have more side effects than the others. However, quinine is used to treat malaria in the first trimester of pregnancy as it is not known to have significant effects on the child at therapeutic doses.

What could be done to prevent the disease?

To prevent malaria, one could consume anti-malarial drugs (i.e., atovaquone, chloroquine, doxycycline). While it is possible to provide infants and children some of these drugs, not all drugs are suitable for children and doses are based on the weight of the child.

Apart from anti-malarial drugs, one should also prevent mosquito bites (specifically at night), which could be done by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets, wearing fully covered / long-sleeved clothing at night, and carrying an insect repellent.

With the increase in the number of malaria cases over the years, it is crucial that members of the public and healthcare professionals cooperate in fight against the disease. While the research for vaccination against malaria is ongoing, it is also essential for everyone to play a part by taking precautions to avoid malaria.

References:

1. Carfagno, J. (2018, July 16). Noninvasive Malaria Test Wins Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize. Docwire News. https://www.docwirenews.com/docwire-pick/future-of-medicine-picks/noninvasive-malaria-test-wins-royal-academy-of-engineerings-africa-prize/

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 26). CDC – Malaria – About Malaria – FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/faqs.html.

3. Mutabazi, T. (2021, June 6). Assessment of the accuracy of malaria microscopy in private

health facilities in Entebbe Municipality, Uganda: a cross-sectional study. Malaria Journal. https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12936-021-03787-y

4. Ryan, S. J. (2020, May 1). Shifting transmission risk for malaria in Africa with climate

change: a framework for planning and intervention. Malaria Journal. https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12936-020-03224-6

5. Tanzania. Severe Malaria Observatory. (2007, January 17). https://www.severemalaria.org/countries/tanzania.

6. Thomas, D. L. (2020, March 13). Triple therapies effective and safe in malaria. News. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200312/Triple-therapies-effective-and-safe-in-malaria.aspx

Sport Inspires

By Racquel Hudson – Art in Tanzania internship

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than the government in breaking down racial barriers.” – Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela’s quote holds an accurate depiction of the effect that sports have on individuals and groups of people all over the world. Mandela expresses how sports can end the divide between people and cultures as well as inspire people to come together. Sports allow people to build bonds and establish relationships that typically would not have occurred in another setting. It is a form of communication that encourages people to express themselves through play. Essentially, in most countries, sport is not entirely competition-based. Instead, they are portrayed as an activity in which people can get out to have fun and exercise. There is less pressure on winning and more pressure on the expectation that people are communicating and expressing themselves with those around them.

In terms of children, sports help bring them out of their comfort zone and bring them great joy.  It is not always necessarily about competition, rather it is how it can make you grow and benefit as an individual. Sports are for people of all ages and backgrounds, which provides  structure for unity than any other method. It is all about what you like to do, who you engage yourself with, and how much you are willing to explore your options and try things that you did not expect to do.

Furthermore, sports are an essential source of socialization and social integration for informing young people and further their development. Social interaction through team sports teaches young people to associate with their friends, solve and prevent conflicts, communicate, and socialize better with their teammates. Whether it is the friends you bring or the people seated next to you, sporting events bring people together.  Perhaps it is the common interest in the different teams that starts the conversation. Whatever the reason, if you talk to any sports fan, you are bound to hear a story or two about mid-game encounters with interesting people.

For instance, sports in South Africa are largely separated into different parts on ethnic lines. In South Africa, sports are treated as a national religion, language group, and transcending race that helps unify the entire country. The focus of sport is primarily to create an active and winning nation. It focuses on bringing many opportunities for Africans to celebrate in sport while still instilling country values.

Especially, football(soccer) without a doubt is one of the most popular sports admired by most Africans. Football is an exciting game with origins tracing back to the 1800s, when the British, French, and Portuguese colonists introduced the sport to Africa. Unlike other sports, football required minimal resources, and for this reason, it has penetrated every part of Africa. Many African footballers had to surmount some obstacles, including poverty, amongst other things before they achieved all the glitz and glamour they are now associated with. The football talent in Africa mostly begins at the grassroots level, and for this reason, many football stars come from hardship.

Fredrick Odhiambo, also known as Abedi, was born in the city of Kisumu in Kenya. He grew up in the poorest neighborhood out of Manyatta. Like many people from that area, life was not easy. To Fredrick and other fellow African athletes, football is everything. It is not only something to keep them busy and out of trouble, but it was also a chance at a better life —a way out of poverty. Abedi fell in love with football at the age of ten, where he quickly began to establish himself as a leader playing as a center-back. He once said, “Growing up in the slums, if I didn’t play football, I would have never gone to school.” He grew up in a family of seven kids, where his parents could not afford to take them to school. One evening, he went out to play on the football field, some high school coaches noticed his talents and agreed to pay for his schooling. He received an opportunity to attend school, whereas thousands in his village are not as lucky.   Abedi’s journey growing up as a kid lead him to create a program and organization for people that were like himself and give them the opportunity to be included and engage positively as kids. 

On another account, Yaya Toure grew up with similar hardships as Abedi and used football as an outlet in order to prevail. Growing up with his four other siblings and both parents, Yaya Toure often tried to normalize his childhood experiences whenever he spoke about it, but the truth is he grew up poor. According to Toure, ” I did not have football boots until he was ten years old because his parents could not afford them.” However, his boots later served him as he impressed the coaches at the Asec Mimosas academy. He earned himself a move to Europe with Dutch club Waasland Beveren. That move served as a springboard that opened new opportunities at European clubs such as Metalurh Donetsk, Olympiacos, Monaco, Barcelona, and Manchester City. Yaya Toure had a long and distinguished career that saw him win two La Liga titles, one Champions League, one Copa del Rey, three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one Nations Cup, and many others. Safe to say, he made up for all of his childhood struggles. He is a four-time African footballer of the year grant champ now and routinely is in the discussion of most noteworthy African footballers.

Tanzania’s Football team

Athlete development is a continuous process. It begins when an athlete first engages in a sport until an athlete withdraws from the sport itself. There are various stages of learning that outline the various stages of learning that an athlete undergoes to acquire new skills and techniques. Youth athletes are among some of the hardest-working people all across the world. Many factors contribute to their success. However, athletes at all levels have their motivation and will that push them to strive for greatness. We all have obstacles and hardships along the way, yet it is the process, the hope, the unity we partake in the sport of football that molds us along the way. Sport has the power to inspire.  

The value of using Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) in a country (Tanzania)

James Mathew Mgaya – Art in Tanzania internship

To many Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH)/ Gross National Happiness (GNH) is new terminology but it bears most important value to the countries. Gross Happiness (GNH) is a measurement of the collective happiness in a nation.  The king of the Himalayan country of Bhutan introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the 1970s as a measure of economic and moral progress as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product. The kingdom of Bhutan’s first legal code, written at the time of unification in 1729, stated that “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government.”. GNH has nine domain pillars of measurement which currently work internationally. These pillars provide the foundation for the happiness, which is manifested into the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience. In short, the country prefers people than self-governed interests by living with peace and harmony towards its citizens.

The value of GNH?

Encourage investment; a country with good Gross Domestic Happiness mean will attract more foreign direct investment (FDI) which will contribute to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the certain country. More FDI means more foreign investors will start their business in Tanzania and increase our national revenue. In addition, it also encourages entrepreneurship and establishment of new companies and enterprises owned by local resident (Tanzanians).

Valuation of currency; increase of value of the currency like Tanzanian shillings depend on interest rate, exports and imports , the purchasing power of currency in internationally, and foreign exchange reserves (the amount of currency held by foreign governments). Simply, the value of currency increases according to its circulation money within international borders by good diplomatic relations via international trade/financing/business. GDH can give a good standard of living. This means there will more available markets, purchasing power of consumer, and good money circulation.

Good diplomatic relation internationally; GNH gives good governance and psychological well-being. This leads to governments that can have good relationships to neighbouring countries and international collaborations economically, politically, and socially. Psychological wellbeing means, through its resource’s government can ensure life satisfactory in some degree of its services, creating peace and harmony among the citizens. Mentally stable countries bring relief to nearby countries and allow friendship due to available labour forces, no political unrest which attracts more investments to multinational companies and international relationship.

Increase of production nationally; GDH gives the government opportunity to build into its public policy decisions like good governance and sustainable development This is when government focus is on public good, boosting their citizen economy and infrastructures like in Tanzania’s strategic cities projects which gives formal and informal employment to the citizens. Building transportations means for the citizen to increase production from the producers towards the consumers, availability of water and electricity to the rural areas stimulating production and leading to urbanisation of rural areas which increases the connectivity between factories and available raw material.

Increase of national income; for citizens to enjoy, their government the needs sustainable income. For example, in Tanzania they use strategic projects to build infrastructure of public goods like roads, railways, bridges, aviation, and marine transports. This is life satisfactory to the citizens by means of transportation, bringing good income good to government and individuals. It creates formal and informal employment to the citizens while simultaneously creating income through toll bridges,  like Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam. Air Tanzania can create national income, and marine transport in lake zones create employment and national income. If citizens are happy with their government, it means no political unrest and its national income will thrive.

The verdict

There so much to talk about the Gross Domestic Happiness and the things can offer if considered. It is an alternative to Gross Domestic Product, which rather focuses strictly on quantitative economic measures. Gross National Happiness considers an evolving mix of quality-of-life factors. The centre provides an overview of national performance across these pillars, providing the foundation for the happiness, which is shown in the nine domains of GNH: psychological well-being, standard of living, good governance, health, education, community vitality, cultural diversity, time use, and ecological resilience.

Tropical Diseases in Africa – Sleeping Sickness

by Shravya Murali – Art in Tanzania internship

Human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as ‘Sleeping Sickness’ is a neglected tropical disease, and a recurrent public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. The deadly sleeping sickness has robbed tens of thousands of lives of individuals in Africa annually, and about 65 million people continue to be at risk of falling prey to it. Fortunately, internationally coordinated efforts have led to a drastic drop in death rates after 2000, with the reported cases of infection being 992 in 2019. It is vital to sustain these global efforts to eradicate the disease for the safety of millions residing in Sub-Saharan Africa.

How does sleeping sickness spread?

This life-threatening disease is spread to humans via bites from tsetse flies that carry the parasite (Trypanosoma brucei) causing the disease. Tsetse flies are exclusively found in Africa, specifically in the south of the Sahara. While there are about 30 species or sub-species of the tsetse fly, only six are known to be able to transmit the sleeping sickness parasite to humans.

However, this disease can also spread from an infected individual to another individual via:

  1. Contaminated needles (i.e., sharing of needles with an infected individual)
  2. Sexual contact – reported to have resulted in the spread of the disease between humans in some cases.
  3. Pregnancy – The parasite is able to cross the placenta, thereby spreading from mother to fetus.
  4. Mechanical transmission – The parasite may spread from human-to-human through other insects that feed on blood.

What are the effects of the disease?

The disease can manifest in two forms caused by different subspecies of the Trypanosoma brucei sleeping sickness parasite – T.b.rhodesiense and T.b.gambiense. The former is commonly associated with the presentation of a painful inflammation, known as ‘chancre’, at the site of the bite. The latter rarely results in a chancre although this has been occasionally observed in infected travellers from non-endemic regions. The “Winterbottom’s sign”, or swollen lymph nodes, is more commonly observed in infections caused by T.b.gambiense.

Regardless of the subspecies of the parasite, the disease comprises of two stages at which it can be clinically diagnosed – the early stage, and the late stage. Furthermore, the symptoms are usually common, causing difficulties in identifying the subspecies that resulted in the disease.

In the early stage, the parasite is found in the blood and the lymphatic system. Its symptoms commonly include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itchiness
  • Joint pain

Signs such as weight loss, intermittent fevers that occur could for a day up to a week, and swelling of the liver and spleen, are usually indicative of an early-stage infection.

In T.b.gambiense infections, the disease progresses slowly as it proceeds from the early stage to the late stage after about 300 to 500 days. On the other hand, T.b.rhodesiense infections advance quicky from the early to the late stage in only around 21 to 60 days.

The late stage is known to be riskier as the parasite enters the central nervous system and results in inflammation of the brain – a condition known as meningoencephalitis – which causes neuropsychiatric problems and tends to be fatal. Some of the neuropsychiatric issues include reversal of the sleep-wake cycle (hence the name “Sleeping Sickness”), hallucinations, anxiety, aggression, and mania. The patient may also enter coma, and if left untreated, this stage leads to death.

How is sleeping sickness treated?

The sleeping sickness, after infection, is normally treated by administered specific drugs depending on the stage of infection. For early-stage infection, pentamidine or suramin is used. Both drugs produce unwanted side-effects and can only be used for early-stage infections. While suramin can result in allergic reactions, pentamidine, is commonly well-tolerated by patients. In the late stage, melarsoprol, eflornithine, and nifurtimox are usually used. While melarsoprol can be used to treat both gambiense and rhodesiense infections, it is obtained from arsenic, hence resulting in serious side effects such as reactive encephalopathy – altering brain function. Eflornithine and nifurtimox are less toxic, but the former is only effective against gambiense infection, while the latter has not been studied for its effectiveness against rhodesiense infections. Hence, the current treatments against late stage rhodesiense infections are still inadequate, drawing an urgent need for sufficient treatment considering the quick progression of infection caused by this subspecies.

What could be done to prevent the disease?

Due to the lack of drugs or vaccines to allow for immunity against sleeping sickness, the only way to prevent the disease currently is to avoid contact with tsetse flies. In countries where tsetse flies are found, the following precautions can be taken:

  • Checking vehicles before travelling in them, as tsetse flies are drawn to motion and dust from vehicles in motion.
  • Wearing fully covered clothing, such as pants and shirts with long sleeves.
  • Ensure that clothes worn are of neutral colours or blend with the environment, as tsetse flies are attracted to colours that stand out in the environment.
  • Avoiding bushes, where the tsetse flies often reside.
  • Using insect repellent to prevent bites from other blood-sucking insects other than tsetse flies that can spread the disease – as tsetse flies are not significantly affected by insect repellents.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) aims to completely eradicate the African Trypanosomiasis by 2030, with international research organisations coordinating to study potential treatments that are more effective, and drugs that may help prevent the disease. At the same time, it is also important that individuals play their part in avoiding transmission of the disease by taking the necessary precautions for the safety of all.

The Economic Consequences of Climate Change in Tanzania

Romaisa Hussain – Art in Tanzania Internship

Keywords: sustainability, climate change, environment, economic growth

Climate change has emerged as a potentially existential threat all across the globe that poses a serious risk to the survival of mankind and sustainable development. Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed changes in weather patterns as a result of global warming and human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Based on a numerous lines of evidence, it is now more certain than ever that climate change is a threat multiplier that can amplify the effects of existing dangers. These threats include human security, scarcity of natural resources, environmental degradation, and poor economic growth.

The United Nations General Assembly set up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 which serve as a blueprint for a sustainable future to be achieved by 2030. The 13th Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations talks about Climate Action. The goal discusses the critical impact of climate change and encourages developing countries to move towards low-carbon emission in the environment. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is a separate organisation working within the UN that deals with climate change and other environmental issues. The UN aims to adapt to low carbon development especially in the vulnerable regions that contribute towards climate action and sustainable natural resource management through collective action. Most of the states in the world are affected by climate change with East Africa being one of the most affected regions.

Tanzania is suffering the brunt of the consequences of climate change in East Africa. The agricultural-based economy of Tanzania has become vulnerable to the extreme climatic conditions. The majority of the population is located in the rural areas which heavily relies on agriculture and farming that is threatened by rising temperatures, droughts, and extreme rainfalls. The country is home to the world’s largest river system, the River Tanzanian. Despite immense water resources, Tanzania struggles with a shortage of water both spatially and temporally, which is worsened by the climate on its nine main river basins. In the recent years, there has been a severe decline in the water level in Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, and Lake Jipe, as well as a decrease in the water level of about 7 kilometers in Lake Rukwa during the last fifty years. These are connected with climate change and are endangering towards socio-economic activities. The effect also puts the country’s hydropower system at risk. Furthermore, diseases such as diarrhea and malaria remain one of the prime causes of casualties in the country especially in the urban settlements consisting of poor infrastructure prone to flooding and increased temperatures. 

Tanzania’s economy relies on its natural and environmental resources where a good number of people depend on fisheries for their income which are at risk from rising sea waters and freshwater temperatures. Tourism is another aspect that has the potential to boost the economy of Tanzania as the country has a tropical climate and is home to wildlife, forests, beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes, and minerals. The attractions are found in abundance in national and marine parks, historical and cultural sites, and recreational sites. Currently, tourism generates 17.5 per cent of GDP and 25 per cent of export revenues, making it an important economic sector. Due the unpredictability of climate it is endangering the ecosystem services on which tourism relies. For example, the Serengeti National Park has been famous tourism spot for the wildlife migration for decades, contributing significantly to Tanzania’s economy and serves as a key source of employment. There is a growing fear that the climate has shifted dramatically, potentially affecting wildlife tourism. 

Threats to the sustainability of the natural resources and environmental degradation remain an issue in Tanzania such as the untimely harvesting and usage of natural resources, unsupervised cultivation process, and trespassing on water sources. Collectively, these can seriously affect the sustainable development goals of a country. Due to the unsustainable consumption of resources, there can be problems in the production of sources that may affect livelihoods. In addition to that, they can lead to the deficiency of food which could eventually lead to poverty. An increase in the population and high reliance on agriculture becomes rather burdensome on the environment and its natural resources which contribute negatively to climate change and water-deficient regions. 

One of the leading contributing factors to the environmental degradation is the unsustainable management of land and watershed. Many challenges are still needed to be tackled to reduce this issue including unexpected growth of human settlements, wildlife hunting, illegal farming and livestock, uncontrollable bushfires, weak inter-sectoral association, and stakeholder linkages. This may lead towards the social and economic development of the country as well as reduce poverty. The Tanzanian Government has marked the water-oriented issues as a major factor that has affected the environment. This has led to the implementation of national policies and necessary plans and strategies needed to tackle it. The visibility of climatic changes in Tanzania is increased by 60% which are seen in the form of a decrease in water sources, land degradation and the reduction in agricultural land. The Government also tends to focus on carbon emission with the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, the saving of wildlife to abolish the hunting system as a means of income, reducing vehicle usage and improving urban planning in the country to promote urbanization. It also placed environmental sections under the sector ministries to ensure and monitor the environmental issues as well as raising awareness amongst the community. The Government also needs to guarantee that efforts are being made in terms of the development of the environment and climate change in national as well as subnational plans. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is one among many partners of the Government of Tanzania that has aided in the development of the environment and contributed to measures regarding natural resources and climate change issues. The UNDP encourages the Government and respective communities in terms of sustaining the environment and contributing to the reversal of environmental degradation. As long as the correct policies are implemented, the chances for preserving the ecosystems in terms of food, energy, wood i.e., timber, clean water, consistent climate etc. are possible. Over the past few years, Tanzania has recently experienced high growth rates of about 7.4%.

The impact of climate change has had a huge effect on the incomes of the people in Tanzania. It has had a severe impact on the economy, agriculture, natural resources, and livelihoods of people which exposes the vulnerable part of the country. It is, to say the least, that the Government of Tanzania is to be respected for the progress it has made regarding the development and exercising of policies and strategies to prevent degradation and the protection of the environment. The Government tends to cater to the environmental needs of the country and maintain its natural resources as a means of saving economic and social development. This would mean effectively establishing immediate measures to improve the damages caused. The Government also needs to guarantee that efforts are being made in terms of the development of the environment and climate change in national as well as subnational plans.

References

Kijazi, A. L. (2019). The Contribution of the Global Framework for Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa (GFCS APA) in National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Process for Tanzania. doi:10.4236/acs.2019.94040

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. (n.d.). Current and future challenges and opportunities in Tanzania. Retrieved from https://um.dk/en/danida-en/strategies%20and%20priorities/country-policies/tanzania/current-and-future-challenges-and-opportunities-in-tanzania/

Ordu, E. I. (2021, April 7). Climate adaptation and the great reset for Africa. Retrieved from Brookings: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2021/04/07/climate-adaptation-and-the-great-reset-for-africa/

UNDP. (2016-2021). ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND RESILIENCE PILLAR, STRATEGY PAPER.

UNDP Annual Report 2020. (2020). Goal 13 CLIMATE ACTION. Retrieved from UNDP Organization: https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals#climate-action

United Nations. (n.d.). Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development. Retrieved from Sustainable Deevelopment Goals: https://sdgs.un.org/goals

UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA. (2007). NATIONAL ADAPTATION PROGRAMME OF ACTION (NAPA). Division of Environment.

USAID From the American People. (2020). Tanzania. Retrieved from climate links: https://www.climatelinks.org/countries/tanzania