A young child’s survival depends on the mother’s health and education as well as the conditions in which the child is born.
In Mozambique, improved access to family planning and antenatal care, especially in rural areas, is helping save women’s lives and that of their children. Maternal mortality has dropped to 408 per 100,000 live births and infant mortality to 124 per 1,000 live births.
Many women and children continue to be vulnerable. Only 48 per cent of births are attended by a skilled health worker and 70 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic, a condition associated with low birth-weight babies.
Women make up 58 per cent of Mozambicans living with HIV and AIDS and a tiny fraction of HIVpositive pregnant women are receiving antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of passing the virus to their babies.
Today, Mozambican children are more likely to live beyond their fifth birthday than twenty years ago but mortality rates remain high. Every day, 320 children under five are lost to preventable and treatable diseases, such as malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea. AIDS-related illnesses are quickly catching up.
A child’s chance of surviving disease is strongly correlated with a mother’s level of education. For example, 97 per cent of children whose mothers have secondary or higher education are given oral rehydration therapy – an effective means of treating dehydration resulting from diarrhoea – compared to 65 per cent of children whose mother did not go to school.
Diarrhoea is a major cause of child mortality and a result of the population’s poor access to safe and clean water and adequate sanitation. Malnutrition is a major underlying cause of child mortality. Around 41 per cent of children are chronically malnourished. Two-thirds of children aged 6–59 months are vitamin A deficient, a condition that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Primary school years
In Mozambique, children now have a much better opportunity to learn than before. Today, 83 per cent of the children are enrolled in primary school, up from 32 per cent in 1992.
The number of primary and secondary schools has tripled and 3,500 new teachers have been recruited every year since 1992. School fees were abolished in 2004, and a programme of direct support to schools has been introduced.
However, investments in the quality of education have not been able to keep up with the expanding school system. Many schools are still not child-friendly. In the lower primary level, there is an average of one teacher for every 74 learners and only 58 per cent of teachers at this level have teacher training.
Around 70 per cent of the schools do not have water and separate latrines for boys and girls. More than half of primary school aged children leave school before they complete grade five.
Inequalities persist in terms of access to education, based on where a child lives, whether the child is a boy or girl, and on the level of household poverty. In the poorest families, for example, only 39 per cent of girls compared to 52 per cent of boys attend school. More than 650,000 children who should be in school are not.
The limited number of female teachers – in the upper primary level, only 23 per cent of teachers are women – means that girls often lack role models who could encourage them to continue and complete their studies.
There are more than 4.2 million teenagers in Mozambique. For many, poverty, HIV/AIDS and limited education opportunities have made adolescence a particularly challenging period.
Yet, an increasing number of them are getting involved in finding solutions to their own problems and in creating new opportunities to voice their concerns through media programmes, youth groups or community theatre.
However, access to secondary school is limited and remains the privilege of mostly urban children. Only eight per cent of children of secondary school age attend high school. There are not enough secondary schools in the country and most are located in towns.
To cope with overcrowding, schools have introduced morning, afternoon and evening shifts in both secondary and primary schools. It is not uncommon to see students in class at 10 pm.
Pressure to leave school, especially for girls, comes from different fronts. Girls often have to drop out to take care of younger siblings or sick family members. Many also drop out when they get married at an early age – around 18 per cent of 20 to 24 year-old women have been married before the age of 15.
Adolescence also carries other risks. By the age of 14, a third of Mozambican children have become sexually active but knowledge of HIV prevention methods is low. Twelve per cent of young women and 27 per cent of young men aged 15–24 reported using condoms during their last sexual relation. Girls and young women are three times more likely to be HIV-positive than boys and young men.
The children in numbers
Infant mortality is 53 per 1,000 live births
200,000 Children living with HIV
Level of chronic malnutrition in Mozambique is 43%
Less than 50% of children are exclusively breastfed in the first six months
Estimated number of children out of school in Mozambique is 1.2 million
Access to quality early learning services of children between (3-5 yrs) is 5%
Child marriage prevalence (<18 years) in Mozambique is 48%
2 million children are not living with biological parents
Child labour percentage in Mozambique is 22%
52% of the Mozambican population are children (under 18 years of age)
23% of the population in Mozambique is an Adolescent (10–19 years)
48% of the children in Mozambique are living in absolute poverty