Irish UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors visit Mozambique
Maputo, 24 February 2005 – Film actor Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game”) and best seller author Cathy Kelly (“Someone like you”) came to Mozambique on their first mission as Goodwill Ambassadors for the Irish National Committee for UNICEF. During the four-day tour they saw UNICEF supported health, education, and water and sanitation programmes as well as HIV/AIDS related activities.
“The community spirit is fantastic,” Cathy Kelly said after the visit. “What was uplifting about our visit, was the community there. They have really seized the opportunity. The teachers for example and the pupils are working together to achieve what they want to, and they all know the importance of education. I found the people wonderful,” Stephen Rea added.
Gaza province has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the country. According to Provincial Director for Health, Dario Sacur, in 2004 around 22 % of the population aged 15 to 49 years was living with HIV or AIDS compared to a national average of 14.9 %. “We are close to the levels of our neighbouring countries Zimbabwe and South Africa now,” he said during a meeting with the delegation from Ireland.
In the provincial capital Xai Xai, Kelly and Rea saw HIV testing and counselling facilities for pregnant women, and learned about the programme for prevention of mother to child transmission. This includes the administration of the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine to the woman and her baby, which will reduce the risk of transmission by 50%.
In a very emotional meeting with a woman living with HIV/AIDS at the Day Hospital in Xai Xai the visitors learned about the very speedy and positive effect of anti-retroviral treatment. Since the beginning of the treatment in 2004, the woman did not miss any working day. So far, around 100 patients receive the life-saving medicine at the Xai Xai Day Hospital. With the support of UNICEF, the Clinic will now start anti-retroviral treatment with syrup for babies.
Kelly and Rea also met with children orphaned by AIDS and other causes. The children are cared for by the People living with HIV/AIDS association Kuvumbana (to be united in the local language Changana). In 2004 alone, Kuvumbana registered 2,115 orphaned and vulnerable children, among them 90 child headed households. Supported by UNICEF, the organisation ensures school enrolment and access to health and other social services for those children.
Gaza province is also heavily affected by malaria with a total number of 800,000 cases being registered in 2004 out of a population of 1.2 million. Malaria is the main cause of death in the province. UNICEF has been supporting the distribution of more than 300,000 insecticide treated mosquito nets in Gaza province over the past years, mainly through health facilities.
Furthermore, Kelly and Rea visited two schools and learned about ongoing teacher training activities and installation of water and sanitation facilities. Both areas are supported by UNICEF. They also met with the school council, which unites parents, community members, teachers and students, and ensures that the infrastructure of the school and the quality of the education are continuously improved.