Corona Virus Pandemic & the ASM Landscape in Tanzania
Looking at the streets in the ASM communities in Geita Region – in Tanzania’s Lake Zone, each door has a bucket of water and a pint of soap. This comes after a directive from the ministry of Health in the United Republic of Tanzania.
What is more striking is the evidenced measure taken by the Artisanal and Small-scale Miner community to apply strict measures for handwashing. Something that Dar es Salaam communities would want to implement to keep off recurring cholera incidences.
Sanitation in the Corona Virus Pandemic Era
While sanitation remains one of the key aspects in curbing the spread of Corona Virus, there is a cost attached to it. During the impact assessment visit by FADev to its partners in the ASM activity areas in the Geita Region, water has become the most wanted commodity. But thanks for the rains.
Before the rains, local community members, especially the ASM activity areas were “buying 20 litres of water at Tzs. 700 to 1,000. But since the rains started, the water costs have gone down to Tzs. 300 per 20 litre jerrican. Even though the costs of buying water has considerably gone down, the demand is higher. This still leads to higher expenditure on water for sanitation in the ASM active operation areas”, says Hamza Mtalingi.
One of the concerns that was raised is to do with the purity (cleanliness) of the water that is supplied. “Water harvested from the roofs of structures that are here cannot be trusted. We are mining and there is a lot of dust around. Therefore, we cannot trust the water. But even when we buy water from the vendors, we cannot ascertain the purity of the water that we buy”, said Hamza.
Another miner suggested that, “we are actually using water that is being supplied, by faith. We know where water comes from when there is rain. But we are not sure how this water is being handled”.
Livelihoods in ASM Communities
With the surge of fear from what would befall miners in their collective, only brave few manage to go to work. This comes out of the need and desperation to makes ends meet. Operations in the ASM operation active areas are continuing, in a seeming normal, but survival mode.
Ms. Rose Mashimba, the owner and the sole operator of John Masasi Mines in Ibondo, Geita Rural intimated that, “going to work is something that we must do. There is no way we are going to stop working when we have families to feed”.
This is said amidst growing fears of the sustainability of ASM operations at this time. “The prices for gold have dropped drastically. Right now, the person who has gold does not have control on the prices. The person with money will offer you the lowest price. We sold our gold at 80,000 shillings a gram and some times higher than that. But at this time, we have no bargaining power. Our little production is now acquired for between 30,000 and 40,000 shillings a gram! Keeping hunger at bay, being able to get essential supplies to protect us from Corona virus and the need to sustain a family is given priority”, says Ms. Mashimba.
The Real Situation
Through the different discussions, there was in fact, a sense that the ASM communities are doing all they can to make sure that they come to work to fend for the needs of their families and go back home safe. There is however, an acute lack of clean water to drink as well as clean hands in individual mine sites.
The conditions observed in the ASM communities is appalling. The situation may get worse.
At the national level, the Ministry of Health in Tanzania has been updating the general public of the status and trends of the spread of Corona virus. Unfortunately, the news is not so great.
Up to now, Tanzania reports a prevalence rate of 94 persons with a few deaths compared to other countries. Even though these are reported to be confined in towns like Dar es Salaam and other economic towns such as Arusha, Mwanza and the like, but there is a need to prepare for greater prevalence rates. This will come with subsequent health and livelihood impacts.
This calls for exerted efforts and focused strategies to find ways to deal with disastrous impacts that would be faced by the ASM communities from local and international partners to strengthen efforts by the Government of the United republic of Tanzania.