James T Morris, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa on Friday urged the humanitarian sector in Mozambique to redouble its efforts to ensure the basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children are met.
Even though Mozambique has made great economic strides since its 16-year civil war ended in 1992, nearly 54 percent of the population live below the poverty line. In addition, 49 percent of the country’s 10 million children live in absolute poverty, deprived from adequate healthcare, education, nutrition, and shelter.
“Mozambique has made tremendous progress, but we all must do more to ensure the next generation can deal with the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS and poverty,” said Morris at the end of his eighth and final mission to southern Africa.
“We need to make antiretroviral drugs available to a greater number of people, particularly children and pregnant women, so that they have the best chance of having prolonged and productive lives,” he said.
During his two-day visit to the country, the Special Envoy met with His Excellency President Guebuza, Her Excellency Prime Minister Diogo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, representatives of UN agencies and donors. He also visited Casa Alegria in Maputo to see firsthand how orphans and vulnerable children are being helped by the humanitarian sector with support from the Government.
By pooling our resources, talents and experiences, we can help countries in southern Africa .... make real progress.
With children accounting for half the country’s population, Mozambique faces unique challenges.
Nearly a quarter of all children have never been to school and only about one third complete primary school. 99,000 children are HIV positive, yet only three percent receive antiretroviral treatment. One in six children die before the age of five – malaria being the biggest killer, and chronic malnutrition affects 41 percent of children.
In addition, there are also 1.6 million orphans, of whom about 510,000 have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. The steady rise in the number of orphans is placing an increasing burden on families, communities and the authorities to respond.
“No one organization, community or government can take on these challenges alone and expect to succeed,” Morris said. “By pooling our resources, talents and experiences, we can help countries in southern Africa start overcoming some of these obstacles to sustainable development and make real progress.”
The plight of many orphans is compounded by food insecurity. Despite better harvests in 2006, pockets of severe food shortages remain widespread, affecting the poorest five percent of the population.
Mozambique, along with other countries in region, has endured three successive poor harvests followed by relatively better production this year.
Access to food however remains problematic for many of the poorest people. WFP plans to provide assistance to about 460,000 people, mostly women and children, through to April next year but faces a critical shortfall of US$9 million.
During meetings with Government officials, Morris praised Mozambique for achieving impressive reductions in maternal, child, and infant mortality since 1997. This has helped put the country on track to achieving at least two Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Mozambique, which is prone to near annual cyclones, severe floods and droughts, and occasional earthquakes, is working to develop a disaster preparedness capacity.
“These achievements would not have been possible without a concerted effort by UN agencies and its partners in Mozambique that work in close collaboration with Government and donors,” Morris said.
“The evidence of their hard work is heartening and bears witness to what can be achieved when we all work together to achieve a common purpose.
“Now we must extend this collaborative hand to further improve the lives of children so that they all have a chance to grow up in a safe, healthy, hunger-free environment,” he added.
No greater achievement
“There is no greater achievement in the world than ensuring a child has a future, and I firmly believe we can reach this goal together.”
Morris became UN Special Envoy for southern Africa in July 2002, several months after being appointed Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. He will retire from both posts early in the New Year.