Child protection

Many children in Tanzania experience violence, neglect and exploitation.

Family portrait of Pastor Isack Masako Nwoza, his wife Dorcas and their three children.


The 2009 Tanzania Violence Against Children Survey revealed the extent to which children are sexually assaulted, raped, physically attacked, and emotionally abused.

Close to three quarters of 13 to17-year-olds report having been slapped, punched, beaten or threatened with a weapon by a relative, authority figure or intimate partner. The practice of physical violence is deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and norms, and further reinforced by legal frameworks that legitimize physical discipline of children at home and in schools. Domestic violence is also generally accepted in families.

A quarter of children have been called bad names, made to feel unwanted or threatened with abandonment, all of which constitute emotional abuse. Abuse is rarely reported as the perpetrators are usually known to the abused child. Children also do not know where to go for care, treatment and support. Very few children have birth certificates, making it difficult to access social services and legal protection.

Early marriage (before the age of 18) is common in Tanzania. This exposes young girls to the risk of violence.

Children in conflict with the law are not served by a child-friendly justice system and are often treated like criminals, rather than as victims of parental neglect, poverty and violence. Many are confined in prisons with adults, which also increases their vulnerability to further violence and abuse.


Child protection is now well-defined within Tanzania’s regulatory framework and a comprehensive child protection system has been expanded to 51 local government authorities (24 with direct support from UNICEF). Service providers have been trained to deliver integrated and multi-sectoral services, combining social welfare, justice, health, education and community development. 

The generation of reliable and broad-based evidence, such as the Violence Against Children Survey, has been critical to raising the government’s awareness of child protection issues and generating commitment to action. 

Additionally, the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children was launched in December 2016, holding relevant ministries accountable at the highest levels.

However, greater financial investment in child protection is needed. The 2011 Public Expenditure Survey estimated that only 0.1 per cent of the resources in key ministries at the national level were allocated to child protection. It has also been estimated that not addressing violence in Tanzania costs over US$6.5 billion – 7 per cent of the national GDP. 

Stronger linkage between sectors and service providers is required to ensure that case management, including referral, of vulnerable children and survivors of violence is better coordinated and provides children with a holistic package of services.

What is UNICEF doing?

UNICEF is supporting the government and its partners to scale-up a child protection system for Tanzania that prevents and responds to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children. This includes strengthening the legal and regulatory framework; improving preventive and response services; addressing harmful social norms at family and community level; and improving the capacity of the national and civil registration and vital statistics systems.

UNICEF's efforts include establishment and strengthening of district, ward and village protection committees that coordinate and monitor the various entities working for child protection, raise awareness, and support case referral; strengthening the capacity of the District Social Welfare Offi ce for effective case management; setting-up of Gender and Children Desks at police stations; building the capacities of health facilities, including one-stop centres, for identification and coordination of abuse cases across health, police and social welfare departments; establishing juvenile courts; keeping children out of detention and prison; strengthening Child Helpline referrals; and establishing a comprehensive Child Protection Management Information System to provide data and statistical information.

UNICEF supports community-level efforts to make homes and schools safer by addressing attitudes and norms that create environments where abuse is habituated. It also supports children affected by emergencies, who need special care and protection, such as Burundian children living in refugee camps in Tanzania. Programme interventions include strengthening case management systems as well as alternative care for unaccompanied children, and supporting community-based psychosocial support through Child-Friendly Spaces.

What we want to achieve by 2021

  • A strong enabling environment at national and local government levels to promote the legislative, political, budgetary and institutional factors that ensure the protection of children
  • Communities able to prevent and respond to practices and behaviours harmful to children
  • A resourced, functional, comprehensive and coordinated child protection service
  • Increased birth registration in 12 regions in mainland Tanzania