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Report finds nearly half of all children in Mozambique living in extreme poverty

© UNICEF/HQ04-0384/Thomas
Sisters Laura, 14, Cremilda, 12, and Anastacia Langa, 10, sit outside their home north of Maputo, Mozambique. They have been living by themselves since both their parents died.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 14 December 2006 – Almost half of Mozambique’s 10 million children are living in extreme poverty, according to ‘Childhood Poverty in Mozambique’, a United Nations report released today.

“They are children like any other group of young people. They have hopes and aspirations,” said UNICEF Representative in Mozambique Leila Pakkala. “But it is like their whole childhood is being robbed because of poverty.”

In the report, ‘extreme poverty’ refers to suffering from two or more deprivations in the areas of health, education, nutrition, shelter or other needs critical to survival and development.

Focus on the most vulnerable

The new study describes how, despite economic progress and social advances in Mozambique, child poverty is a pervasive and deep-rooted problem. Among its findings about the country’s children:

  • 49 per cent face severe water deprivation
  • 47 per cent have no access to a toilet near home
  • 39 per cent have no access to radio, television or newspapers at home
  • 24 per cent of those between 7 and 18 years of age have never been to school
  • 17 per cent of those under five have never been immunized
  • 6 per cent live in severely overcrowded dwellings.

The report will inform UNICEF’s work in Mozambique from now through 2009. In this period the country programme is expected to focus on four main areas child survival and development, education, HIV/AIDS and child protection.

Besides supporting the government in these areas, UNICEF will work with partners to encourage an increase in resources for the most vulnerable children.

“Statistics show that hard-to-access areas, rural areas, are where the most vulnerable children  children under the poverty lines are living,” explained Ms. Pakkala. “Our programme, based on the report, will focus on the seven most vulnerable provinces.”

© UNICEF Mozambique/2006
At the launch of the UN report, ‘Childhood Poverty in Mozambique’, two young journalists look at paintings produced by children on the ‘child-friendly’ theme.

Concern over heavy rains

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is the greatest threat to Mozambique’s development, states the report. Of the 1.6 million orphans in Mozambique, approximately 360,000 have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS-related illnesses, it finds.

“What life means for them is that many are taking care of other siblings,” says Ms. Pakkala. “Many have to drop out of school to work on the streets or in the farms, to get the most basic of incomes to pay for shelter or food for their siblings. Children here do not have the time or the opportunity to be children.”

In these already difficult circumstances, there are fears that the country may be in for a severe rainy season. Already, a heavy rainfall has forced the evacuation of several thousand people in the city of Beira, in Sofala Province. The rain arrived early and unexpectedly, so the floodgates to the sea were closed, causing the river to rise and flood homes in the area.

“We were able to do a very rapid assessment and provide support,” notes Ms. Pakkala. “Immediate needs included water and sanitation and hygiene support, because once the floodgates were opened, the water level receded quickly. In the aftermath, we’re very concerned about cholera, hygiene and sanitation. There’s a lot of work going on to ensure we don’t have any outbreaks.”




14 December 2006:
UNICEF Representative in Mozambique Leila Pakkala explains the findings of the UN report, ‘Childhood Poverty in Mozambique’.
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