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Life in the 'Ghetto'
[November 24, 2008]

Life in the 'Ghetto'

Arusha, Nov 24, 2008 (Arusha Times/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) --
When sections of Arusha are improving and featuring characteristics of a modern town, larger parts of the urban area are fast deteriorating to sprawling filthy and stinking slums.

More and more people now find themselves living in mud shacks, without toilet facilities, water, electricity or even an access road to the shacks they call homes.

A survey by the Arusha Times has found out that if the Local Government does not intervene with basic planning activities now, in the next 10 years Arusha will be nothing but a mega slum with a small neat area east of Goliondoi and Afrika Mashariki roads to show visiting dignitaries and tourists.

Areas that are already unbearable with expansive slums, the like of Kibera in Nairobi, include Unga Limited, Ngarenaro, Kijenge, Majengo, Sanawari, Mianzini, Daraja Mbili Lemara, Sinon, Sombetini, Elerai and Mbauda. Arusha with an estimated population of 400,000 is surrounded by appalling slums in all directions unlike other cities which have shanty towns only in one or two sides of the main planned areas.

The worry of many people is that the scenic hills north of the municipality would soon be a densely populated labyrinth of shacks that will pose a threat to water sources. The trend according to John Mollel of Mianzini is that "you leave for work in the early morning and when you come back in the evening you find five shacks that have been built within hours and already occupied by families of no less than six people each." The demand for shacks is high due to heavy migration to Arusha of people from other parts of the country seeking jobs.

Mianzini could tell the story of slums in Arusha. In that grim neighbourhood one entrepreneur has built about 60 rooms on hardly one eighth of an acre plot. Each house, or rather room, has at least six people; this means parents and an average of four children live in each room. The packed area according to our investigation is occupied by 360 people.

The most gruesome part of that particular slum is that all the 360 people share two pit latrines and two bathrooms. A latrine in the slums means a hole in the ground in a small room with a worn out door. A bathroom is a tiny repugnant room with neither running water nor wash basin and often without a roof.

How do 360 people manage to use that facility? One of them told the Arusha Times that they use what residents of Lagos in Nigeria call "flying toilets." They relieve themselves into shopping plastic bags and then throw them out of their windows, in 'flying speed'. Those with jobs use toilets facilities at their places of work.

A woman in that slum who did not want to be identified said in the morning it was always drama as people - children, parents and visitors - form two lines queuing to enter either the bathrooms or latrines.

"It is something you won't believe. Circumstance sometimes force me to use our only room as a bathroom," she said, adding that she moved into that slum in the early 1990s and since then she has been witnessing the population swell day in and day out.

When the landlord noticed that there was demand for housing he continually put up rooms at any open space in the compound without consideration of utilities or even access to the rooms.

Mianzini may be a bad enough example of Arusha's horrid slum areas but one has to be in Mbauda around midnight to witness the mother of all filth.

When they close some of the famous bars in the area around midnight, suddenly an evil smell dominates the whole of the densely populated area. Some of the bars and lodges, this newspaper has confirmed, unplug their septic tanks and let the dirty water and feaces flow into the drains on road sides. When it rains all the filth is washed down to a river south of Mbauda which is a source of water to villagers living down stream.

A resident of Mbauda, who lives near one of the bars which sells arguably the best Nyama Choma in the neighbourhood, said releasing the human sludge into roadside drains is a public health threat, a perfect cholera situation. The man who identified himself as Zungu said he had reported the matter to the Arusha Municipal Council but no action had been taken so far.

Dr. Solomon Ole Logilunore, Municipal Health Officer In-charge told the Arusha Times he had never been informed of what is happening in Mbauda at night. He promised to follow up the matter.

But as slum people are having it tough, a small part of Arusha is booming with high rise buildings and posh residential houses. A visit by this reporter to housing estates in Themi and Njiro areas only confirmed the widening gap between the haves and have nots.

In those areas the trend now is to have five or six-bedroom houses - all ensuite-with the best and latest luxuries such as Jacuzzis, wireless internet, swimming pools, house and garden bars, satellite dishes, gymns and tennis courts. Each home having three or four four-wheel luxury cars is normal among the affluent.

At up-market malls in Themi area, Njiro and of all the places Ngarenaro, consumption habits would make one believe that Arusha is not a poverty stricken area. Just walk out of the shrines of modernity and all what you see is a polarized world. The rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.

According to the Arusha municipal planning officer, Fatuma Kayanza, there have been attempts to improve conditions in some of the town's poverty stricken slums. She said in 2004 AMC in collaboration with UN Habitat and the University College of Land Studies (UCLAS) initiated a slum upgrading project in Elerai and Daraja Mbili wards.

The project implementation involved the formation of community development committees and also wards committees to spearhead activities toward improvement of the slums.

The implementation of the first phase was planned for June 2004 to May 2005 with a proposed budget of US Dollars 70,000 from UN Habitat and Tsh.35 million from the Tanzanian government. Both wards had water supply as their priorities.

The UN Habitat project was only an initiative. When it folded, the area still remained an appalling slum, save for the improved water supply. A Local Government capital development grant has also injected Tsh.52 million to Elerai and Daraja Mbili water projects.

There is also an initiative to upgrade Unga Limited which has all the bad attributes of a slum: sprawling shacks, dirty paths, stinking pit latrines, high level of crime, illicit liquor and lack of utilities such as power and water. To date, the only thing modern in Unga Limited slum area is a newly erected communication tower serving one of the cell phones companies. It also serves the area well as most of the stolen hand phones in Arusha find their way to Unga Limited.

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