by Nancy Okwengo, Dar es Salaam
Explosions at a munitions store near Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, have left hundreds of children separated from their families as people fled their homes during the night. The Tanzanian Red Cross has set up tracing facilities and is reuniting children with their parents as thousands took refuge in the national stadium.
The blasts, which also forced the closure of the airport, killed 20 people, seriously injured over 200 and displaced over 5,000 people. “Our focus is mainly on the misplaced children,” said Joseph Kimaryo, Director of Disaster Management at the Tanzanian Red Cross. “Five staff members and 50 volunteers have been working at the national stadium to give first aid and provide food, water and items such as blankets and tents,” he added.
Traumatised seven year old Sadiq Hamisi was one of 179 unaccompanied children at the national stadium. He says he was sleeping when he was suddenly awakened by the blasts. “After the explosion, I joined many people who were running from the houses to the town centre,” he said. Sadiq walked for over six hours during the night before he arrived at the national stadium.
The Tanzanian Red Cross has so far reunited 88 children with their guardians. Additionally 254 adults have reported their children missing. Rachid Hassan walked for hours looking for his seven year old daughter Zaina and was delighted to find her with the Red Cross at the stadium. “I am happy and thankful to find my daughter in good, safe hands,” he said. “I am however not sure if I can take her home,” he added, concerned about possible future explosions.
The Tanzanian Red Cross continues to support people that are too afraid to return to their homes, preferring to stay in makeshift shelter at the stadium. “We will focus now on the immediate needs of the people here, but will also look at long-term solutions and reunite unaccompanied minors with their families,” added Kibari Tawakal, Tanzanian Red Cross Manager for Disaster Response.