"Govt must address how public should respond to pandemics"

03May 2021
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
"Govt must address how public should respond to pandemics"

A study conducted by Actionaid Tanzania on the impact of covid-19 measures to income and decent work opportunities to young people in Tanzania has revealed that there is urgent need for the government to review policies,-

Chief Executive Officer of East African Human Rights Institute (EAHRI) Neema Ole Ndemno making a point at the study findings on the impact of covid-19 measures to income and decent work opportunities to young people in Tanzania. Photo by correspondent Gerald Kitabu

-laws and guidelines to address specific needs of the youth when disaster happen.

The study conducted in March this year, through the Project titled Youth Empowerment and Influence in Tanzania (YEI) said the policies, laws and guidelines have many gaps and others are obsolete, recommending that there is a need for review to accommodate recent changes, challenges and community needs.

Disseminating the report in Dodoma during a one day stakeholders conference, Chief Executive Officer of East African Human Rights Institute (EAHRI) Neema Ole Ndemno said failure to review these policies regularly have resulted into using old policy approaches to address modern societal challenges such as COVID-19.

“The study reviewed and analysed a number of laws, policies, guidelines and plans in relation to disaster management in Tanzania, in particular COVID-19. This study assessed how implementation of those policies amid COVID-19 responses has impacted on the livelihood, income and decent work for young people,” she said. The findings indicate that many policies and guidelines are not youth and gender sensitive. Most of these policies were developed without incorporating regional and international standards on management of disaster and risks reduction. COVID-19 interventions were of more disease control and did not address impacts and hit-backs associated with COVID-19 responses. Majority of youths in Tanzania suffered economically at the middle of COVID-19 interventions because there was no special economic relief and stimulus packages designed to create economic resilient among youth groups.

The study said the young people in Tanzania have numerous needs and rights. They are entitled to employment, skills in labour market, capital income, education, markets, sports and many more. Amidst COVID-19 disaster, many policies, seemingly, are silent on the rights and the needs of youth. Since March 2020, no any policy guideline or plan was specifically developed to address economic challenges and the loss of livelihoods posed by COVID-19. As the result, majority of people mostly the young generation suffered financially because of the uncontrolled economic hit-backs caused by skewed COVID-19 interventions. “These policies have blind and insensitive directives on youth related challenges such as market force, labour market, and job opportunities among many others,” she said.

Citing an example, she said the 2004 Disaster Management Policy is old and lacks modern approaches and standards in disaster management.

She said during the pandemic, many entrepreneurs youth closed their restaurant when it was no longer possible to generate profit at the height of the deadly disease.

Lack of social protection policies for people in the informal sector, tourisms and extractive industries during COVID-19 measures was the major blow to the incomes and livelihood of young populations and their families. Other countries in the region such as Kenya provided special economic relief funds and other subsidies to the affected communities and those working in tourism and other sectors, the study said.

During COVID-19 interventions a big part of youth groups was involved or included in COVID-19 management committees and organs. However, the government’s COVID-19 responses did not grow thirst for knowledge and skills in schools and colleges. For instance, schools were closed without having a proper contingency plan for alternative learning for students especially those from poor families residing in rural areas. The abrupt school closure affected both students and teachers. Some teachers in private schools, even lecturers did not get paid and others lost their jobs.

Looking at the COVID-19 crisis from the vantage point, it is clear that a lot of job opportunities had been lost due to policy decisions made. According to ease of doing Business report, Tanzania ranks the 162 country out of 190 countries50. Many young people employed in the informal sector were forced to quit jobs as the economic situation worsened and employers could not pay them salaries. The policy response did not take into account future consideration especially for these who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Youth could not access emergence support from government funding schemes, tax reliefs.

The government decision to suspend all sports activities amid COVID-19 interventions did not consider alternatives ways of building economic resilience for the youth groups, who depend on sports to earn their living. The self-employed young people who are engaging in sports business did not earn income since the entire value chain was distorted. Many players in football teams were unemployed and their clubs ran bankrupt. The youth in the art and entertainment sector had also been affected as their sources of income were also affected since they could no longer perform in live shows and entertain in bands to eke out a living.

Citing an example of Jafari a resident of Dar es Salaam, the report said as an entrepreneur, Jafari had since 2020 established a small shop in Dar es Salaam. He was selling consumer goods to earn income and meet his family needs. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled economic activities in Tanzania, Jafari would generate up to Tanzanian shillings 50,000 from his daily sales. However, ever since the deadly disease tightened its grip on humans—forcing people to wear facial masks everywhere they go, his income dropped twice. The coronavirus pandemic and its adverse impacts to the economy, forced Jafari to close his business. He had to offer casual labor to earn a daily wage to give his business a new lease of life. Jafari was not alone. His only sister who was running a street kitchen, also complained about COVID-19 and the effects it had on her business, which was not performing well.

Jafari called on the government to create opportunities for young people. He urged development organizations and vocational training centers to support the government by equipping young people with transferable skills so that they can establish their own businesses such as making carpets. Jafari is convinced, such initiatives would help young people to employ themselves.

Various disaster management standards which some of them have been well captured by the Tanzania Disaster Management but put much emphasis on holistic approaches when dealing with disasters such as COVID-19. For instance, the Disaster Management Act of 2015 directed the use of disaster management and risk reduction cycle with five key areas of interventions. The law requires the government to manage disaster and associated risk through the following five areas of interventions; disaster preparedness, disaster prevention, recovery, response and risk mitigation.

On the part of Zanzibar, the revolutionary government of Zanzibar also prepared COVID-19 Contingency Plan which cost almost US$5 million. The Objectives of this plan were almost similar to that adopted by the Tanzania Mainland. The Zanzibar Contingency plan focused on provision of guidance and coordination to COVID-19 responses in Zanzibar without much attention on the impacts of those responses to income and livelihood of the youth and other vulnerable groups.

Tanzania COVID-19 interventions focused on responses to combat and control COVID-19 as the disease. No much attentions had been directed on risk mitigation and recovery. All plans, policies and government directives focused to control the disease and save life while other areas of interventions remained without special attention.

She said many laws, policies and guidelines reviewed by this study have failed to address social protection issues amid COVID-19 interventions or any similar disaster. For instance, the National Youth Development policy is also silent on how youth, largely in the formal sector will be provided with social protection measures as the best way to mitigate the adverse economic shock during pandemics or hazards. Plan and policies used by the government to manage COVID-19 pandemic are also silent about creation of resilient economy through stimulus packages to strong forces of economic. Failure to have all these economic relief measures amid COVID- interventions has adversely affected the livelihoods of youth as stated before in this study.

Disaster risk- insensitive budget

The international and regional standards on disaster and risk management require national and disaster budget at all levels to be risk sensitive. The finding of this study indicates that regardless the fact that Tanzania has disaster management fund, still there are policy and budgetary challenges in financing the entire cycle of disaster management. For instance, according to the COVID 19 Contingency Plan of 2020 there is no budget allocated for disaster risk reduction and relief. The Action plan of the preparedness and action plan mainly focuses on responding to the health issues in terms of coordination, case management, laboratory and logistics.

However, the study findings commended government approach towards the COVID 19 saying some policy approaches adopted by Tanzania especially the decision not to impose total lockdown were found to be realistic given the socioeconomic facts from the grounds

 

The participants recommended that government should support informal enterprises in urban and rural settings led by youth helping them sustain their business and livelihoods while maintaining the COVID-19 spread control precaution measures at every level of engagement. This will act as a finance catalyst in their businesses helping them maintain their flow of income via purchasing different items and commodities, These interventions could include appropriately designed and targeted wage- compensation schemes, loan guarantees, and tax deferrals, improve productive social safety nets (PSSN) and reach more people above those in extreme poverty. These schemes should be used in all categories of disasters. A modern national social protection policy should be adopted.

it should scale up existing social protection programmes and re- purpose them to protect the youth, including non-conditional cash transfers, food baskets or suspension of payments of basic utilities. It is essential to constantly evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of these measures and to readjust them if necessary.

Support export policy by ensuring a ready market through securing bilateral agreements with other foreign countries in high value markets and in the region (using EAC, and SADC and other regions Tanzania may wish to integrate). This could be done by granting tax breaks to youth SME’s and companies seeking to increase their capacity in export market.

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