Despite positive economic progress in Tanzania, access to safe water and sanitation facilities remains sorely inadequate.

Despite positive economic progress, access to safe water and sanitation facilities remains sorely inadequate.

Tanzania Development Trust works in the poorest regions of Tanzania, which are among the most disadvantaged regions for clean water and sanitation access. Government-provided water infrastructure often dates back to pre-Independence, and rural areas are littered with broken pumps and pipework. 

Most villages have a water committee which is responsible for taking small payments to help with repairs, yet with very low incomes in rural villages, communities often do not have sufficient funds to pay them, and there is little funding available for district councils to make repairs.

The United Nations Development Assistance Plan 2016-2021 (UNDAP II), published in 2016, reported:

“a high proportion of the Population of Tanzania face serious challenges as a result of poor access to a safe domestic water supply and adequate sanitation services. This leads to a high prevalence of preventable diseases which contribute to poor health, loss of productivity and intensification of poverty.”


It noted also significant differences in clean water coverage and improved sanitation across rural and urban areas and socio-economic status.

  • On Mainland Tanzania, urban coverage of safe water is estimated at 88.6%, but just 46.8% in rural areas.
  • For sanitation, respective coverage was 26% urban and 7% rural. 87% of the population is without ‘improved sanitation facilities’.
  • Almost two-thirds of all heath facilities lack regular water supplies.
  • One-third of health centres and almost half of dispensaries have no safe on-site water supply.
  • Over one-third of health facilities and nearly 30% of hospitals have no latrine facilities for patients.
  • Nearly 38% of primary schools have no water supply on school premises – and of those that do, nearly half are not functional.
  • 96% of schools lack sanitary facilities suitable or accessible to children with disabilities, 84% have no functional hand washing facility.
  • Awareness of the importance of hygiene practices is low.
  • Government budgeting for sanitation is very low.


Impacts on Health, Education and Prospects of Girls

The impact is felt in numerous ways. Most obviously, in health. Many villages rely on water supplies that are contaminated by livestock, people washing themselves and their clothes. The consumption of such water inevitably results in water-borne diseases, such as the cholera outbreak during the period of August 2015 through January 2018 that resulted in 33 421 cases including 542 deaths. Children under five years old accounted for 11% of cases. Overall, up to 1/3 of deaths in children under 5 in Tanzania are related to poor hygiene. The young and the elderly are the predominant victims of poor water access and quality.

The Tanzania HIV/AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey 2011-12 (THMIS) reported that 44% of households in the survey faced a round trip to collect water of more than 30 minutes. This reduces time available for education and work for those primarily responsible for fetching water, namely women and girls.

Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in Tanzania’s schools also affect school attendance, retention and educational performance. The rapid increase in primary school enrolment since the abolition of school fees for primary education in 2002 has put a heavy burden on schools, and many new schools and classrooms are built with no consideration for WASH facilities. After reaching puberty, girls in particular are less likely to attend school if toilet and hygiene facilities are inadequate or non-existent. Children in such schools also face increased health risks including diarrhoea, worms and urinary infections – which can impact their ability to learn and could result in increased absenteeism. Poor attendance often translates into poor performance, and students who perform poorly are more likely to drop out early from school.

The Water and Sanitation Programme of The World Bank estimated the cost of poor sanitation to Tanzania at US$260 million in 2012 alone (0.7% of GDP).

Cost-Effective and Sustainable Improvement

Cost-effective and sustainable improvement is possible across many communities. This can be delivered in a variety of ways, for example:

  • rainwater harvest and storage;
  • wells;
  • drilling for water;
  • harnessing of existing supplies by creating or improving water points;
  • dam building or repairs;
  • pipelines;
  • pumps for irrigation.

In recent years, TDT has funded projects involving all of these. We have good experience of bringing together locally trained workers and community workforce, local government water engineers, and the management and practical skills of our local volunteer representatives. These bring reduced costs, construction benefits, and the benefit of shared knowledge.

Frequently, these projects have been funded by, or with significant participation by outside donors.

These donors are almost as varied as the projects themselves.  They include like-minded Trusts, charitable bodies, online giving groups, groups of friends, ‘in memoriam’  gifts and legacies, and individuals.  Often we can match the interests of the donor with a specific type of community of beneficiary group.