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Tanzania Day 2: Visit to Bigwa primary school, Mama Amina and Rmadhan

04 Dec 2009

I met the children at Bigwa primary school who are brought up by their grandparents, having lost their parents to AIDS. They have dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers and prime minsters and sung of education being the key to life.

Bringing up 11 grandchildren with no income

I visited Mama Amina who, at 76, is bringing up 11 grandchildren in shocking conditions with no income. Her plot of land is far away and she finds it difficult to farm now. The children gather stones to sell to other families building houses. This is their income.

Previously, she nearly lost her house to her brother in-law when her husband died. The arguments raged for days but the intervention of a paralegal worker trained by HelpAge and the village leader won the day and she kept her home.

Mama Amina has since had to sell the main house to support her grandchildren and is now living in three tiny rooms which are unfinished, with a leaking roof and no doors or windows.

Working hard to support his family

I then met Ramadhan who is pleased with his goats. The milk they provide has improved his and his family's health, but he still needs more support to sustain his family. He has two adult children plus two sons aged nine and 15. He can not afford secondary school fees and his plot is suffering from drought.

I finished the day visiting the Municipal health officer who works closely with MORETEA and talked of his plans to extend the identify papers and free health care to two more wards each year. Although basic health care is free to all Tanzanians over 60, few can get it.

Older people refused their right to free healthcare

In this area less than half the older people surveyed knew they were entitled to free health services. 18% had been refused by health care workers who wanted to charge them and 13% were refused because of they didn't have identity papers to prove their age.

Imagine if older men and women in all Tanzania's 143 wards had similar benefits of health care, legal advice, community support, help to earn an income and to deal with the huge emotional and financial fall out caused HIV and AIDS. The seven million older people and one million orphans they support could start to look forward to a more secure future.

Read more about HelpAge's work in Tanzania.  

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Jane Scobie
Country: UK
Job title: Head of Network Development

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.