Nutrition and Health - The picture
The economic growth and the reduction of absolute poverty in recent years led to a remarkable reduction of child mortality in Mozambique of 18% between 1997 and 2003. But the country still has one of the highest rates in the world. Nearly one in five children die before reaching five years of age. Of an estimated 715,000 new born children every year, about 89,000 will die before reaching age one and an additional 39,000 will not reach age five.
Malaria is the leading killer of children in Mozambique, contributing around a third of all child deaths. Although malaria can easily be prevented through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, in 2003 only 10% of children under five were sleeping under a net.
Other main causes of child mortality are acute respiratory infections (ARIs), diarrhoea, and vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunisation rates against DPT, tuberculosis, polio and measles, however, have improved from 47% in 1997 to 63% in 2003.
Many young children die at home before getting to a hospital, because parents do not recognize how critical their state is or because they have no easy access to medical services. About 60% of households live more than one hour away from the nearest health facility, which are often only equipped with a worker with minimal or no training who has limited supplies and drugs. The country only has 450 doctors, with half of them working in Maputo.
HIV/AIDS poses another serious threat to the survival of children in Mozambique. In 2003, 16,200 children under the age of five years died from AIDS-related diseases.
Nutritional deficiencies hinder young children’s physical and cognitive growth, and malnutrition is the underlying cause in half of all child deaths. About 41% of children under five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition. No improvements in the rates of chronic malnutrition have been recorded over the past five years, despite significant reductions of poverty.
Vitamin A deficiency in children aged 6-59 months was recorded as high as 69% in a 2002 study. Consumption of iodised salt is estimated at around 40 percent, and the proportion of locally-produced salt that is iodised is not more than 20 percent.
Around 22 women die every day in Mozambique from pregnancy and childbirth related causes. The maternal mortality rate now stands at 408 per 100,000 live births, which represents a reduction by almost half compared to 10 years ago. But the Mozambican healthcare infrastructure is still facing enormous challenges in providing adequate obstetric care. Maternity services are concentrated in urban areas, trained health professionals, medical supplies and equipment are in short supply and extreme poverty and traditional practices inhibit women from giving birth in clinical settings. In 2003, only 48% of deliveries are attended by skilled health personnel, a meager improvement compared to 1997 (44%).