Mozambique at a glance
A nation in progress
Mozambique is a country of great potential and many contrasts. Located in southern Africa, it has borders with six other countries and more than 2,500 km of Indian Ocean coastline. Its population is strikingly young, with 10 million children accounting for half of the total population of 20 million.
Around 70 per cent of Mozambicans live in rural areas, where the majority eke a living from subsistence farming. Recurrent drought in the country’s interior, however, has led people to migrate to urban and coastal areas with adverse environmental consequences, such as desertification and pollution of surface water.
While Mozambique’s income per capita is US$ 370, the country has emerged as one of Africa’s most successful examples of post conflict reconstruction and economic recovery.
Since the end of a 16-year civil war in 1992, Mozambique’s economy has grown at a strong pace. Between 1997 and 2003, economic growth averaged about nine per cent, well above the continent’s average, and continues to grow.
During the same period, the proportion of Mozambicans living below the poverty line fell from 69 per cent to 54 per cent, exceeding the goals set out in the Government’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, known as PARPA.
The 2008 national MDG Progress Report estimated that Mozambique was likely or has the potential to achieve 12 of the 21 MDG targets – among them are those relating to poverty, under-five mortality, maternal mortality, malaria and the establishment of an open trading and financial system.
The MDGs – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV and AIDS, all by the target date of 2015, form a global blueprint to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people.
The country has successfully been to the polls three times since the end of the war. The most recent presidential elections in 2009 have reaffirmed the country’s commitment to political stability, democratic governance and national reconciliation.
The country has also attracted strong donor support and high inflows of foreign direct investment. Foreign aid represents 15 per cent of Mozambique’s Gross Domestic Product, compared to 6–8 per cent for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the latest available estimates, the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to have increased by more than 6.5 per cent in 2008 , which is a continuation of the high growth rates achieved during the past decade.
Mozambique has not yet been visibly affected by the international financial crisis, but the impact on services for children remains uncertain, particularly as the State Budget is highly dependent on international assistance. As of December 2008, there has not been a noticeable impact on the Government’s current account in terms of reduced exports.
Similarly, the financial crisis has not led yet to changes in the levels of external financing, whether from aid or from private capital flows. However, the impact of the crisis could materialise in the medium term, particularly through reduced levels of donor funding, if the global recession continues and deepens.
With over 55 per cent of the planned State Budget for 2009 dependent on aid, such a decrease would have a significant negative impact on child development as the related sectors are highly dependent on international assistance.
In fact, the appreciation of the US dollar towards the Euro has already contributed to a reduction of current aid commitments, with an estimated difference of over US$ 150 million between the value of aid committed in mid 2008 and the value of aid committed at the end of 2008.
Despite the impressive economic recovery, Mozambique is among the world’s 20 poorest countries, ranking 175 out of 179 countries on the 2008 Human Development Index. About half of the adult population lives in poverty.
Child poverty is a pervasive and deep rooted problem, with about 58 per cent of children living below the poverty line. One of Mozambique’s biggest challenges will be to translate its economic gains into improved child and maternal health and well-being over the medium and longer term.
Poverty reduction efforts and other social advances have not benefited everyone equally. Disparities in income, education, health and nutritional status as well as access to safe water and sanitation exist between those living in rural areas and urban areas; between men and women, boys and girls and between those that are educated and those that are not.
For those who are poor and vulnerable, life is aggravated by periodic drought and floods. Poverty means that families cannot recover from the blow of natural disasters and debilitating illness. When combined with HIV and AIDS and drought, poverty strikes at the most vulnerable. Pockets of high malnutrition, affecting especially orphaned children, can be found in areas with severe food insecurity and high HIV prevalence.
HIV and AIDS is the greatest threat to Mozambique’s development. There are about 1.6 million people living with HIV and AIDS. About 350,000 children have lost their parents to AIDS-related illnesses.
The Government and its partners have scaled up their response to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS. This effort needs to be sustained and strengthened as the impact on those who have been infected and affected increases.