Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Occupational therapy in Tanzania, East Africa, was first established in the year 2000, at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College. It is the only school in Tanzania offering occupational therapy (OT) studies. The course is offered at a diploma level.
In total there are a little over 300 occupational therapists under the Tanzania Occupational Therapy Association (TOTA) umbrella.
Only recently has the government of Tanzania acknowledged the importance of occupational therapy, which is why it has started employing occupational therapists to public hospitals.
Very few occupational therapists own rehabilitation centers. Unfortunately, there are no occupational therapists working in private hospitals in Tanzania.
Occupational therapy is still not well known. People find it hard to differentiate it from physiotherapy. I think it is mostly because we (OT professionals) have not taken the responsibility of making the profession as known as it should be. Another reason is the expense of using occupational therapy services, since it is not included in the health insurance fund.
In view of these challenges, occupational therapists have decided to take a step in tackling these challenges.
One way they do this is by using brochures that have information about occupational therapy. They spread these brochures in hospitals, schools and through What's App groups. Also, they use local radio stations to talk about certain health conditions and the importance of occupational therapy for individuals. The association of occupational therapists in Tanzania (TOTA), has also been working on establishing a degree programme in the country, so as to upgrade the level of education of occupational therapists to meet the required standards.
One particular center in Dar es Salaam uses a different approach. It is a group of occupational therapists from Maisha Bora Clinic/Good Life Clinic. They work with children with autism and cerebral palsy. They provide a hands-on approach at the center and at clients' homes. Those in need of services who cannot reach the center are approached at home.
An assessment follows. This involves physical, cognitive and environment assessments. Parents/guardians who can afford to pay do so, but those who cannot pay incur costs when buying locally made adaptive tools, such as a special sitting chair, splints or a standing frame.
We realize that we have a long way to go to achieve our goal of being recognized and fully utilized to our maximum potential, but we are still glad of the efforts we put in everyday.
Occupational Therapist, Tanzania
Africa Lead, The Occupational Therapy Hub