Social Protection and Child Malnutrition in Tanzania: A pressing development challenge

Tanzania has sustained high rates of economic growth in recent years, but it has had limited direct impact on the majority of Tanzanians’ lives. Despite attempts at policy level to create a national social protection agenda, little concrete progress has been made. Child poverty rates are alarming, suggesting an acute need for comprehensive, well-articulated and well-targeted social protection measures.

Over one-third of child deaths in Tanzania are due to undernutrition. There have been aggregate improvements over the past two decades but progress has been mixed at best. The underlying causes of malnutrition are complex and need to take into account a range of economic and social risks that govern access to food, eg, unstable rural livelihoods, commodity price fluctuations and low uptake of healthcare. Many rural households dependent on subsistence agriculture are both cash and asset poor and thus not resilient to economic and climatic shocks. Both rural and urban poor are highly vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations.

Child malnutrition represents a pressing development challenge in Tanzania, but evidence suggests that social protection programming is far from fulfilling its potential to bring about genuine transformation in children’s lives. The groups most vulnerable to malnutrition (infants, young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers) have not been covered sufficiently or targeted adequately in current social protection programmes. Therefore, caregivers and infants must be at the centre of future initiatives, and this could be achieved without significant additional budget outlay.

Published 2018-09-03