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International Day of the African Child: Celebrating Sense International’s support for children with deafblindness in Tanzania

15 June 2021

Today is International Day of the African Child, which raises awareness about the lives of African children. To mark this year’s event, find out more about Sense International's innovative screening and early intervention programme in Tanzania.

The three-year programme, funded by Jersey Overseas Aid, was the first of its kind in Tanzania when it launched in 2018.

Providing crucial early intervention

Based in Dar es Salaam, it screens infants and children aged 0 to five years old for vision and hearing impairments and provides support for those who are identified with deafblindness/ multi-sensory impairments (MSI).

Sensory screening and early intervention, such as physiotherapy or sensory stimulation, provides crucial support for children with deafblindness/ MSI which is critical to help them develop, thrive and realise their full potential.

Sense International’s programme in Tanzania has now screened 53,890 children for vision and hearing impairments and 113 children have been enrolled in the early intervention programme for further support, both in hospital and at home. Parent support groups are also being attended by 44 parents.

Continuing support during the COVID19 pandemic

Despite the ongoing challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic, Sense International Tanzania is continuing to support children with deafblindness/ MSI and their families through the programme.

Sense International is working closely with Occupational Therapists to provide parents with remote guidance on how to support their children at home, including through mobile phone support and videos.

Before the programme, Tanzania did not provide screening and early intervention services and there was low public awareness of deafblindness and a lack of Government support. This meant many children did not receive early diagnosis or treatment, leading to poor overall health outcomes. Parents were often unaware of their child’s impairment and how to support their stimulation and development.

But Sense International Tanzania is changing this through its screening and early intervention programme, which incorporates learnings from Sense International’s earlier project in Kenya and Uganda.

Mudhihir’s Story

Mudhihir being supported by his Occupational Therapist

Four-year-old Mudhihir is one of the children supported by Sense International’s programme in Tanzania. There were difficulties during Mudhihir’s birth and he was put into intensive care soon after.

Over time, his mother noticed he was not developing in the same way as other babies his age and could not sit, crawl, stand or walk, even with assistance.

His mother visited different doctors and therapists over the next couple of years but there was not much improvement. Mudhihir could use one hand to reach and hold objects but could not sit without assistance, stand or walk and speaking was a challenge for him.

Mudhihir was eventually diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and underwent full sensory screening through Sense International Tanzania, which found he had multiple sensory impairments, and was enrolled in the early intervention programme.

Now he's started the programme, Mudhihir has been attending regular therapy. He can now sit without assistance for about 15 minutes at a time, and stand and walk with assistance from his mother or his Occupational Therapist.

Since the COVID19 pandemic, Mudhihir attends fewer therapy sessions but continues to benefit from early intervention support from Sense International to help him reach his full potential.

Find out more information about Sense International Tanzania.   

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019