Information by Country

Mozambique: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
Situated along the Indian Ocean, Mozambique is a vast country in the Southern African region covering almost 800,000 square kilometres and benefiting from more than 2,500 kilometres of rich coastline. Forest and woodlands make up about 70 percent of the country. The majority of its 18 million people live in rural areas with an urban population of only 29 percent. The Mozambican society is very young. More than half of its members are under 18 years old.

Following independence from Portugal in 1975 Mozambique went through a devastating civil war with more than 1 million people killed or maimed and 5 million people displaced, including 1.7 million refugees. After the signing of a peace accord in 1992, the country managed to achieve political stability and rapid growth at an impressive pace. Nevertheless, it still remains one of the least developed countries in the world, because for most Mozambican families the fruits of the economic recovery remain out of reach. 70% of the population live in absolute poverty.

Due to its geographic location, Mozambique is particularly vulnerable to climatic hazards, most notably floods, droughts and cyclones. In 2000 and 2001 parts of the country were flooded after record rains and storms, in both cases leading to the displacement of several hundred thousand people. During the 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 rainy seasons Mozambique experienced significantly below average rainfall, in particular in the south. As a result, crop production in the affected areas has been very poor. During the latest multi-sectoral assessment in May 2003, almost 660,000 people in the six provinces of the South and Centre of Mozambique were found to be extremely food insecure with an additional 255,000 people being at risk of food insecurity. The vulnerability of people in these six provinces, especially of children and women, is further exacerbated by the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS, in particular as these areas have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the country.

UNICEF in action

UNICEF has a long history in Mozambique. We began co-operating with representative groups in the late 1960s, providing assistance and emergency relief to the Portuguese-administered African Territories. After independence, UNICEF established a continuous presence in Mozambique and finally opened the first Maputo office in July 1975.

The overall goal of the Country Programme 2002-2006 is to support and strengthen Mozambique’s commitment and capacity to promote, protect and fulfil children’s rights, meet their basic needs, and expand the opportunities of children to reach their fullest potential. To achieve this goal, UNICEF is working with the Government on a national, provincial and district level, but also with communities, and young people and children themselves:

  • At a national level, UNICEF supports the strengthening of policy planning, development and monitoring in order to create an enabling environment.
  • On a provincial and district level, the strategy is to build the capacity for quality and sustainable delivery of services.

  • Capacity development at community level is aimed at empowering families and communities with knowledge and skills to promote, protect and fulfil children’s and women’s rights.

  • Communication finally aims to empower children, young people and women to make informed choices, and create a demand for services.

The Country Programme was designed within the second UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF II). It responds to the priorities and targets set out in the country’s Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).

UNICEF priorities

The current UNICEF Country Programme focuses all actions on three cross-sectoral and mutually reinforcing overarching priorities:

  • Integrated Early Childhood Development:

    Mozambique has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. One out of four children die before reaching age five, which means every year around 170,000 children of that age group lose their lives. Malaria, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles are the main causes of child morbidity and mortality. UNICEF aims at ensuring that all children have a good start in life through nurture, care and a safe environment. This should enable them to be physically healthy, mentally alert, emotionally secure, socially competent and able to learn.

  • The Promotion of Girls’ Education:

    The chances of children in Mozambique to receive a basic education have improved considerably since the end of the civil war. Nevertheless, girls are still underrepresented. 52.6% of boys of primary school age are enrolled in grades 1 – 5 now, whereas the net enrolment rate for girls stands at only 48.6%. Girls’ domestic workload, poverty, the lack of female role models, sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies are some of the causes for the gender gap. UNICEF views girls’ education as crucial for creating opportunities for their own empowerment. Therefore, the focus is on attracting and keeping girls in school, through improving the relevance and quality of education and by using interactive gender-sensitive teaching methods. UNICEF also aims to address underlying causes that inhibit girls from enjoying their right to basic education like lack of safe water, latrines, issues related to poverty and the risk of sexual exploitation.

  • HIV/AIDS – Prevention, Care and Protection:

    HIV/AIDS has become the single greatest threat to the development of Mozambique. The national HIV prevalence rate among the 15 to 49 year olds stands at 13%, but this hides huge variation between the provinces, with rates over 20% in some areas. On the whole, more than 1.2 million Mozambicans are living with HIV/AIDS. On average, an additional 520 people become infected every day. The consequences for children are tremendous. Around 300,000 children under 15 years have already lost their mothers or both parents to AIDS. It is estimated that infant and child mortality in Mozambique will increase up to 20% or more as a direct result of AIDS and its related infections. In addition to direct consequences, the effects also threaten the realisation of child rights indirectly. Health and education services lose skilled staff, and children of affected families have to drop out of school either to work or to care for younger siblings.

    UNICEF aims at preventing HIV infections and securing care for those affected and infected. UNICEF promotes an integrated response to the epidemic, involving young people as crucial actors in the area of prevention. Because young people, as the most sexually active and reproductive group, are a window of opportunity when it comes to prevent further infections.



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