Mozambique is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, having emerged from a long and destructive civil war that lasted 16 years and ended in 1992. Two decades of peace and stability following the war have allowed the country to recover significantly in both social and economic spheres. In recent years, Mozambique has experienced high economic growth, achieving a real GDP of 7.4 percent in 2012, due to its booming extractive industry and inflows of large investments from mega projects.
The significant economic growth, however, has not yet translated into structural changes necessary to sustain the country’s capacity to reduce poverty and foster human development. The country is near the bottom of the UNDP 2012 Human Development Index, at 185 out of 186 countries. It has some 24.5 million inhabitants and an average life expectancy of only 48 years. One third of the population is chronically food-insecure, and half a million children aged 6-23 months are undernourished. Malnutrition in children under five remains alarmingly high at 43 percent. Underlying causes include inadequate nutritional intake due to poor diet diversity, low meal frequency, poor breastfeeding practices, high levels of disease and teenage pregnancy. Vitamin A and iron deficiencies in children under five are high, at 69 and 74 percent respectively.
These problems are further aggravated by the high incidence of HIV infection (11.5 percent). This affects the most productive segment of the population, reducing household savings and the number of skilled workers. Small-scale cultivation is the basis of the nation’s agricultural production and an important source of income for most rural women. Recurrent climatic shocks such as drought, floods and cyclones, however, compromise income from farming and contribute to food insecurity, while also causing loss of life, ruined livelihoods and damaged infrastructure.
Among African countries, Mozambique is the third most affected by weather-related hazards. While the southern and central regions are drought-prone, floods occur every two to three years along the major river basins and in the poorly-drained urban settlements. In January 2013, persistent seasonal rains in neighbouring countries resulted in alarmingly high water levels in the Limpopo and Zambeze rivers and caused severe flooding in the lower Limpopo (Gaza Province). More than 60 percent of the population lives in coastal areas which are vulnerable to rapid on-set disasters. Mozambique also faces deteriorating terms of trade due to increased international food and fuel prices.