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October 5, 2022

Social Categorization and Local Humanitarian Help: The Limitations of Legal Categories for Refugees (2022)
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In her new publication for Utafiti Journal of African Perspectives, our senior reseacher Opportuna Kweka examines the tensions between social and legal categorization of refugees, and how this affects their ability to receive humanitarian help. The legal categorization of refugees in Tanzania has resulted in the requirement that they maintain residence in camps, and in the restriction of their movements. Refugees residing in designated camps are supposed to receive full support through humanitarian aid. However, the protracted nature of refugees’ stay in Western Tanzania has resulted in a decline of monetary and practical support, as well as donor fatigue over time. A review of the literature about humanitarian aid reveals a widely shared misconception that most humanitarian support for refugees in Tanzania generates from the global North. This false assumption is challenged by showing how refugees and their host communities take part in everyday humanitarian practices. Refugees are compelled to socially re-categorize themselves in order to access the local assistance provided by their host communities.

Kweka, O. L. (2022). Social Categorization and Local Humanitarian Help: The Limitations of Legal Categories for Refugees, Utafiti, 17(2), 197-216. doi:

April 10, 2022

Spaces of Interaction Between Protracted Refugees in Nyarugusu Camp and the Surrounding Hosting Communities (2022)

Msoka, R. & Kweka, O. (2022)  Spaces of Interaction Between Protracted Refugees in Nyarugusu Camp and the Surrounding Hosting Communities, Journal of the Geographical Association of Tanzania, 41(2): 59-78.

In their new publication Spaces of Interaction Between Protracted Refugees in Nyarugusu Camp and the Surrounding Hosting Communities at the Journal of the Geographical Association of Tanzania, our PhD student Rosemary Msoka and South Team Leader Opportuna Kweka outline the spaces of interaction that are formed between refugees in the Nyarugusu camp and the surrounding host communities in western parts of Tanzania, studying their everyday interactions and exchange. The fieldwork was conducted between March and December 2020, where a total of 45 semi-structured interviews and 12 FGDs were carried out, with observations being done in the refugee camp, host community villages and different markets where refugees and the host communities interact. Drawing from literature on space, and how spaces are constructed and function over time, particularly on how humanitarian spaces are constructed, the paper argues that encamped refugees’ interaction with host communities has led to the expansion of humanitarian space of support. The expansion of space by the mobility of refugees out of the camp to the host communities’ areas symbolizes power and control of space by refugees, hence proving that the power of space construction does not only end with those in planning authorities and decision-makers, but to different users of space. Despite challenging the formal support to refugees in camps, which is mainly North to South support, and which is increasingly being minimised due to protracted situations, the paper shows that this support is useful to encamped refugees as it helps them interact with host communities by giving refugees something to bargain with.

October 29, 2021

Invisible Resilience: Indigenous Knowledge Systems of Earthquake Disaster Management in Kagera Region, Tanzania (2021)
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Hambati, H. (2021) Invisible Resilience: Indigenous Knowledge Systems of Earthquake Disaster Management in Kagera Region, Tanzania. Utafiti, 16(2):247-270.

In this paper by EHTZ Senior Researcher Dr. Herbert Hambati illuminates the gaps that exist between how indigenous knowledge systems and local people respond to earthquakes and how government, donors and other formal disaster responders think about managing these crises.


Through the integration of a diversity of fieldwork data the paper shows how the formal mechanisms of global assistance constitute disaster management failure by design. Through a study of earthquake affected wards in the Kagera region, he argues that it is rather the local experts who sustain human lives in the weeks and months before external aid comes to the rescue. Gaps in management are a result of gaps in recognition; these identified ‘invisible stakeholders of disaster management’ or ‘everyday humanitarians’ are crucial in local level disaster response, yet their contributions to their own survival remain invisible to central government and the global arena. Traditional means of forecasting environmental catastrophes and of providing essential assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters are reflections of cultural values, socio-economic sophistication, and scientific expertise within communities whose resilience needs to be recognized, assisted, and promoted. Indeed, it is poverty – not lack of expertise - that acts as the root cause of destruction and damage after earthquakes in the Kagera region of Tanzania, and hence remains the main problem to be solved.

Following his conclusions, Hambati encourages that the educational curricula of the future, involving a new generation of academicians, should integrate this crucial indigenous knowledge into the nation’s mainstream disaster management framework.

February 10, 2021

South-South humanitarianism: The case of Covid-organics in Tanzania (2021)

Richey, L. A., Gissel, L. E., Kweka, O. L., Bærendtsen, P., Kragelund, P., Hambati, H. Q., & Mwamfupe, A. (2021).

South-South humanitarianism : The case of Covid-organics in Tanzania. World Development, 141, 105375.

The paper is open access and can be downloaded here.

How can the case of Covid-Organics in Tanzania help us to understand South-South humanitarian assistance in times of crisis?

In their article in World Development, EveryHumanTZ researchers - Lisa Ann Richey, Line Engbo Gissel, Opportuna L.Kweka, Pernille Bærendtsen, Peter Kragelund, Herbert Qambalo Hambati and Asubisye Mwamfupe - examine how Tanzania navigated the first COVID-19 wave from March to May 2020. In the initial phase of the pandemic Tanzania’s government issued a call for strict hygiene measures but it did not impose strict lockdowns as its neighbours, and citizens were encouraged to worship, take steam baths and use locally available herbs. Tanzania’s ‘herbal strategy’ was complemented with Covid-Organics, a herbal tonic produced in Madagascar and provided as a gift from the government of Madagascar to Tanzania. Drawing on preliminary data in English and Kiswahili through a variety of methods, the article examines Covid-Organics as an exemplary case of South-South humanitarian assistance (SSHA) in crisis, suggesting that it enabled the Tanzanian government to connect to latent debates about Pan-Africanism and Julius Nyerere’s legacy, while it at the same time provided an opportunity for a public reflection on Africa’s place in the world and like other forms of humanitarianism, reflects elite politics and priorities rather than prioritizing the distribution of humanitarian goods and decreasing inequality.

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