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All that glitters is not gold: Limi and Oscar's story

With only small plastic tents for shelter and no health care or clean water, Geita's gold mines are no place for children to call home.

Oscar, Limi and their mother share a meal in their home

Little Oscar is just two years old. He spends many hours on his own every day while his mother and sister go to work in small scale  mines in Kaseme ward, Geita District, Tanzania. Conditions are harsh in the mining community where they live.

Oscar recently fell sick with malaria and would likely have died if Plan International had not intervened, driving the unconscious boy to a local health centre where his life was saved.

THE MINES OF GEITA

Gold mining in Geita started in the early 1900s when the country was under colonial rule. Gold mining, both large and small scale, has attracted many people to Geita from different parts of Tanzania. It is estimated that around 900,000 people live in the area, hoping to find work in the mines or to find gold. The large numbers of people have created serious social problem such as unemployment, child labour, and housing shortages. 

Small scale miners in Geita use mercury for extracting gold, the use of which poses serious health and environmental risks to communities and eco-systems caused by deforestation and the reduction of arable land for agriculture.

In the small provinces around the mines, people live under unspeakable conditions. It is here that Oscar lives in a small plastic tent with his elder sister, 11-year-old Limi and their mother, Mariam, 32. There is no health service or clean water.  

ESCAPE THROUGH EDUCATION

Limi goes to school, but works in the mine for two hours every morning and all day on Saturday and Sunday. When she is not working or at school, she takes care of her little brother. But she is already in poor health as a result of working in the mine.

Limi with her friends at a Plan-supported school in Geita district

When his mother and sister are at work and school, Oscar is left alone and spends his time roaming around the area where he lives. It is a very dangerous existence for such a young boy due to the poor hygienic conditions, high crime rates and large number of desperate people.

For children, education is the only chance they have to escape the poverty and a life in the mines.

Plan International’s anti-child labour project in Geita region, which is supported by the European Union, strives to protect children like Limi and Oscar from the worst forms of child labour in the mining areas of Geita and Nyangwale Districts. The project covers 12,000 children in 11 mining wards targeting 52 villages with total beneficiaries at 260,000 people.

Limi sees school as a break from working, but also as a way out of poverty. All the money she earns from working in the mines goes towards her school needs. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. “They make sick people healthy again”, Limi explains.

 

For more information about Plan International's work in Tanzania go to plan-international.org/tanzania.

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.