Faidha Kiluwa is a lively teenage student at Makumbusho Secondary School who lives in Kisiwani Mwananyamala, one of the poorest areas of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, near the seasonal river Ng’ombe.. Her father passed away when she was four years old; since then, she has been living with her mother and other relatives in a typical three-bedroom house, located about fifteen minutes by foot from a road where a car can pass.
The Faidha family has been residing in this area for more than 24 years. But for more than 10 years now they have been forced to leave their home during the rainy season. Sadly, it has become their yearly routine. “Before we built this house, we did not face disasters like floods. In the last eight to eleven years we have been suffering from the flood situation”, Faidhas mother Kashinde Selemani explains.
Faidha says her first time experiencing floods was in primary school. “It was at midnight when I was sleeping, and my mother woke me up to rush out of the house. I saw our house was surrounded by water and my relatives and other neighbors were trying to rescue things from their houses”, she remembers.
That night they spent watching the floods destroy their homes. In the morning they went to stay in their relatives’ house, while others were evacuating water and mud from their homes, and trying to rescue their belongings. She spent one week without going to school, just staying at home. She had not been able to manage to save her books and other school materials and ittook her more than a month to have all her exercise books and her uniform back.
Since then floods have become part of her life now; whenever it rains there's that fear.
Faidha’s school is located within a thirty minutes walking distance from her home. Elizabeth Masanja is her class teacher at Makumbusho Secondary School.
“She is not focusing on her studies; she is not the girl we used to know before the rainy season starts. But it is not only Faidha who is facing the impact of increasing flooding. When the rain starts in Dar es Salaam, many students will not attend classes for a week or even more”, Elizabeth states.
In Faidha’s grade around fourty from ninety students are affected. It's a challenging situation for the school because when the students return to school after the floods, teachers are supposed to provide special programs for them to get them caught up.
Dr. Ester Mzilangwe from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental health at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences researches the effects of natural disasters on children. “Natural disasters can affect children immediately after the disaster and may also affect them in the long term. Children may suffer psychological effects that include sleep problems, learning difficulties, loss of interest in activities, nervousness, anxiety about being away from parents or other primary caregivers, irritability and disobedience, and social withdrawal”, she notes.
Moreover, as Dr. Mzialangwe states, a child can develop disorders including, acute stress reaction, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety disorder. A child may also be affected academically because of natural disasters like those yearly floods.
Not far from Muhimbili University Tanzania Methodological Authority (TMA) is based. Dr. Ladislaus Chang’a, director of research at TMA, says: “Tanzania has been facing climate change affected abnormalities for more than ten years now. The temperature has risen, the rainy season has decreased compared to previous ones, but when it rains it is “cats and dogs”, we have droughts in some areas and the cold season is increasing.”
Tanzania receives heavy rains twice a year, namely from March up to May and October up to December. ecently Tanzania has had new records of heavy rainfalls in various areas, some of them even outside the rainy seasons. For example, in Mtwara on January 12th, 2021 366 millilitres were recorded within 24 hours. This was the highest record since the station was established. The first heavy rainfall in Mtwara dates back to May 8th, 2017 and was comprised of 316 millilitres in 24 hours. Tanga region recorded 156 millilitres on November 2, 2011, the highest record ever. In Dar es Salaam it 153 millilitres of rainfall within 24 hours were recorded on October 27, 2017- also the highest record since the station was established.
Disasters like floods are not the exception in Tanzania. They have a great impact on the economy, health, infrastructure, communication channels, and also the environment. Slums, areas where poor citizens are settling, are the most exposed to disasters. he poor are in the position of being driven to dangerous, less desirable locations, such as flood plains, riverbanks, steep slopes, and reclaimed land.
Back at Faidha house her mother says she is trying hard to talk to her daughter about adolescent age challenges and how to overcome them. She wishes her daughter to become a “saver” of the family because she herself has no permanent job and as a single parent is struggling to make ends meet. She is desperate because the flood disaster makes her fall behind economically
Faidha’s dream is to become a pharmacist. “I’m going to study hard to reach my dream”, Faidha says with a strong will in her eyes. The recurring floods at Kisiwani will certainly be an ongoing challenge for her because for low income families like Faidah’s, moving homes to a safer area is not possible. And so the story of Faidha and her family proves once again: It is the poorest who are suffering most from the impact of climate change.