Community-based organizations in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, with assistance from UNAIDS, are supporting women who use drugs and their families to survive during these difficult times.
“Before the pandemic, life was simple and better. I used to do activities at the beach, such as cleaning fish, helping people load and clean their boats, and they would pay me. I would help my daughter wash her clothes; I would escort her to school and cook food for her. Life was simple,” said Doroth Hassan as she sits in the office of SALVAGE, a sister organization of the Tanzania Network for People who Use Drugs (TaNPUD), in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam.
Ms Hassan would normally provide for herself and her daughter by doing sex work and other informal jobs, such as the work on the beach. But this has become a challenge since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now life has changed. I live in fear and worry. People who I worked for don’t want to pay, with the excuse that they have no cash because of the coronavirus. Everything changed. Life is tough. Clients disappeared, vanished. And the few who are still coming cheat; they pay less for sex,” said Ms Hassan.
She is not alone in her worry. Most of the women who use drugs in Dar es Salaam survive in the same way as Ms Hassan does, by doing sex work, trading and doing other jobs in the informal sector. They live in camps for people who use drugs or in informal and densely populated settlements.
With support from UNAIDS and other partners, local community-based organizations, including TaNPUD and SALVAGE, have been able to provide some relief to women in the camps and settlements in Dar es Salaam.