Mozambique News Agency
"AIDS is not a problem for somebody else - it's a problem for all of us", declared Health Minister Ivo Garrido on 15 March. The Minister was speaking at the opening of a two day seminar in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, held to prepare deputies for an international conference on questions of AIDS to be held in Maputo at the end of the month.
Garrido stressed that he regards AIDS as the most serious threat to Mozambican development. AIDS affected the costs of production, he said - because of reduced productivity due to the illness and absence of HIV-positive workers, the loss of highly skilled and experienced staff to the disease, and the requirements for additional training to replace those who have died. A vicious cycle was occurring, he said, in which "AIDS deepens poverty and poverty worsens AIDS".
He warned that progress made in improving life expectancy is now being lost. The latest statistics (from 2004) suggest that Mozambique's life expectancy at birth is only 38.1 years - but the National Statistics Institute (INE) calculated that, in a scenario without AIDS, life expectancy would be 46.4 years.
The 2004 epidemiological surveillance round, based on blood samples from pregnant women in 37 sentinel sites scattered across the country, indicated that 16.2 per cent of Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 (about 1.4 million people) are HIV-positive. In that year, an estimated 97,000 people died from AIDS-related causes.
Garrido stressed that women have become much more vulnerable than men: of the 1.4 million HIV-positive in 2004, about 800,000 were women, 570,000 men and 80,000 children.
The Minister warned that, unless the situation is reversed, by 2010 Mozambique will lose 15 per cent of its health workers to AIDS, and health units could become overloaded with AIDS patients. The situation in the education service is similar - at the current rate, 9,200 teachers will die of AIDS by 2010.
Treatment with the anti-retroviral drugs that prolong the lives of HIV-positive people is now available at 35 health units, and Garrido said it would be expanded to a further 30 this year. Currently, about 20,000 Mozambican are receiving anti-retroviral therapy. But the number of cases where the disease has reached the point at which anti-retroviral intervention is necessary is thought to be well over 200,000. In many cases, however, the individuals do not even know they have the disease.
Garrido stressed that, under Mozambican law, nobody can be forced to take an HIV test - but he said the government advises citizens to take the test and learn their HIV status. So far over 300,000 people have followed this advice, taking the test at the 155 GATVs (Counselling and Voluntary Testing Centres) that the government has set up.
Garrido insisted that anti-retrovirals, while lowering the viral load, do not cure AIDS. They do not eliminate the HIV virus from the body, and thus anybody on this therapy must continue taking the drugs for the rest of their lives. Hence the main strategy to halt the AIDS epidemic could not be treatment, but had to be prevention.
The Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, Virgilia Matabele, told the seminar that about 16 per cent (or 1.6 million) of children in the country are orphans. About 380,000 of these are "AIDS orphans", who have lost one or both of their parents to the disease.
The current projection is that by 2010 there will be over 626,000 AIDS orphans. With the death of the adult members, inevitably the number of households headed by children will increase dramatically.
Matabele stressed that children who have lost their mothers are twice as likely to be malnourished as other children, and that orphans run a considerably higher risk of dropping out of school than non-orphans. She stressed that the plan of action drawn up by her Ministry seeks "to create a protective environment to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on orphaned and vulnerable children".
This plan also hopes "to strengthen the capacities of families and communities to find local solutions to protect and care for orphans".
The government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is granting 8.5 million US dollars to support the Mozambican government's National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI).
An agreement to that end was signed in Maputo on 22 March between Deputy Foreign Minister Henrique Banze and the Canadian High Commissioner James Hill.
Speaking shortly after the signing ceremony, Banze said that this financial support to PROAGRI is of great importance, bearing in mind that agriculture is one of the priority areas for the development of Mozambique.
The Mozambican government developed the PROAGRI initiative as a means to modernise the Agriculture Ministry, and decentralise its functions. The programme also aims to bring support closer to small farmers, and improve the management and conservation of natural resources.
With this money, which is to be used during the two year period 2006/07, Canadian support to PROAGRI since 2004 now amounts to $17 million.
The chairperson of the board of directors of the publicly owned Ports and Railway Company (CFM), Rui Fonseca, on 23 March accused the companies that hold leases on Maputo port and on the Nacala-Malawi railway of failing to honour their contracts, thus causing huge losses to CFM.
Fonseca was speaking in Maputo during the opening of the Annual Meeting of the CFM Council of Directors, a forum that brings together CFM directors and senior staff from across the country.
Maputo Port is currently operated by the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC), a consortium led by the British Mersey Docks and Harbour company. Under this deal, signed in September 2000, MPDC manages the port, but the physical assets remain the property of the state.
For this lease, MPDC is supposed to pay an annual rate indexed to the US Consumer Price Index, plus a percentage of pre- tax gross income (starting at 10 per cent in the first year, and eventually rising to 15 per cent). But Fonseca revealed that MPDC is behind with payments, and currently owes about $10 million.
The CFM Board, he added, was also seriously concerned at the northern corridor. The port of Nacala and the line to Malawi were leased out last year to the American-led consortium CDN (Nacala Development Corridor), but the results have been far from satisfactory. "Here we expressed, right from the start, our deep concern over the visible weakness that the leaseholder shows", lamented Fonseca. "It is imperative to correct the existing anomalies so that rail and port activities may at least reach the same levels as they had when they were being managed by CFM".
"The inefficient functioning of this corridor represents a major threat to the economic growth of the country's northern region", said Fonseca.
He warned that CFM will not rest until the situation with these leaseholders is changed, to allow an improvement in the working conditions and the operational results, so that CFM can meet its social and financial commitments and implement its investment plans.
Indeed, of the major leases, the only one that seems to be working properly is that on the port of Beira, where CFM's partner is the Dutch company Cornelder. Fonseca pledged that CFM will continue its own restructuring "and will consolidate the existing leases, correcting what has gone wrong in them. In terms of future action and strategy, I should stress that CFM has now concluded the programme of leases. So there will be no more leases".
Fonseca mentioned a series of planned investments, with particular reference to the central port of Beira, where CFM is to invest in emergency dredging of the access channel, so that large ships can enter the port 24 hours a day.
CFM also intends to acquire a dredging vessel for Beira, and provide new tugs, pilot boats and other aids to navigation. The whole package is valued at about $53 million, and counts on financial support from the Danish government.
Work continues to rebuild the Sena line between Beira and the Moatize coal mines in Tete province, which was completely destroyed by Renamo rebels during the war of destabilisation. The whole Beira rail system is now leased to the Indian Rites and Ircon International consortium.
As for the Ressano Garcia line, from Maputo to South Africa, Fonseca said that CFM is planning to upgrade it and render it more competitive, a job that is budgeted at about $12 million. CFM is in full control of this line, after a lease with a consortium headed by the South African rail company Spoornet was cancelled.
Despite problems with the leaseholders, Fonseca announced that CFM made an operational profit of 387.8 billion meticais (about $15.5 million) in 2005, a result he described as encouraging. The company's revenue was 1,625.4 billion meticais, and its costs were 1,237.5 billion.
Fonseca said there had been an increase of 10.7 per cent in cargo handled in the ports, rising from just over nine million tonnes in 2004 to 9.98 million in 2005. Rail goods traffic rose by 6.6 per cent, from 3.81 million to 4.06 million tonnes.
Fonseca noted that in mid-2005 CFM reintroduced passenger trains on the Maputo periphery, as an effort to guarantee cheap public transport, following a 50 per cent hike in fares on the privately owned minibuses that provide much of the city's passenger transport. "This is a social service that is not profitable. It is subsidised by the company, since 85 per cent of the costs are borne by CFM", said Fonseca. He stressed that, despite the costs, the company will not stop the service, because it is a "social responsibility".
As for the rationalisation of the CFM workforce, Fonseca revealed that CFM now employs just 1,863 workers, as against the 19,387 it had on its books in 1998. He said that 13,364 workers identified as surplus to requirements, had left the company. The remaining 4,160 included those who died, those who left on reaching retirement age, those sacked for disciplinary offences, and those transferred to the leaseholders.
The Mozambican health authorities diagnosed 33,718 cases of tuberculosis across the country in 2005, according to a press release issued on 24 March by the Health Ministry, on the occasion of the World Tuberculosis Day.
Mozambique is one of the 22 countries regarded as still suffering from high levels of tuberculosis, a disease that kills about 1,500 people in Africa every day.
Tuberculosis is closely linked to poverty, a factor that increases the risk of infection, and is also associated with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It is estimated that about one third of people living with HIV are likely to catch tuberculosis.
The Health Ministry warns that close control over and a vigorous fight against both tuberculosis and AIDS is crucial if poverty is to be defeated.
In order to multiply efforts in the fight against tuberculosis, the World Health Organisation (WHO), during a meeting of its regional committee in Maputo, in August 2005, declared the disease an emergency in the African region.
This declaration was a commitment from all African countries to intensify strategies and interventions to prevent infections, to diagnose and give early treatment as a means to reduce to at least half by 2015 the prevalence and mortality of tuberculosis.
President Armando Guebuza has blamed the current state of the national market for the poor performance of the productive sector in Mozambique. Addressing a rally on 22 March at the small town of Rotanda, in Sussundenga district, in the central province of Manica, President Guebuza said the major challenge is for the country to try and make the domestic market more dynamic.
"This means that we must have places where we can sell goods and people who will buy them. We must have the means to transport our produce to market, and we must have banks where we can save our money", declared the President. "We lack proper organisation for the market to function as it should. This is our biggest challenge", he said.
President Guebuza noted that Sussundenga, and the country as a whole, has rich land but it is not being used properly. He lamented that there are farmers who produce surplus crops, but are then unable to sell their produce. Maize is imported - but there are areas in the country where maize is rotting in barns for apparent lack of a market.
Before the rally, President Guebuza visited a trade fair in Rotanda, where farming produce was on display, showing Sussundenga district's potential in this sector.
President Guebuza said that the exhibition proved that the inhabitants of Rotanda are improving their production, since they now have the capacity to transform soya into milk and sesame and sunflower into cooking oil, using low cost technologies.
Described as the granary of Manica, Sussundenga has been defined as a priority district in the national development strategy, but of its 416,257 hectares of arable land, only 2.3 per cent of it is currently being used.
During the Rotanda rally President Guebuza reiterated the government's decision to introduce Consultative Councils at district level, which will be charged with identifying priority areas for the development of the district, using the seven billion meticais (about $280,000) that the central government plans to allocate to each of the country's 128 district every year. This money, if well used, can stimulate both production and the market, said Guebuza.
President Armando Guebuza has made clear that these annual grants are not for the building of schools, hospitals, roads, or other infrastructures, but to give each district a capacity to reproduce its few existing resources. President Guebuza's government has defined the district as the focal level for the country's development.
A senior official of the opposition party Renamo, has accused the country's intelligence service (SISE) of murdering Renamo parliamentary deputy Jose Mascarenhas. Mascarenhas was assassinated in the central city of Beira on 5 March, and his body, naked but for his shoes, was dumped near the official residence of the Sofala provincial governor.
Although the police investigation is continuing, the head of the Renamo Department of Veterans and Social Affairs, Moises Machava, has blamed SISE for the killing, according to the weekly paper "Zambeze".
"There are no doubts" declared Machava, "SISE, on instructions from Frelimo (the ruling party), orchestrated the death of Jose Mascarenhas, because he deserted from SNASP to Renamo".
Machava was talking of events that happened over two decades ago. Mascarenhas was a senior figure in SNASP, the security service that operated under the one-party state in Mozambique, from 1975 to 1991, when it was replaced by SISE. Mascarenhas rose to be a director in the Security Ministry, but fled the country in 1983, and made his way to Portugal where he eventually joined Renamo.
The director of SISE in Sofala province, Ramos Monteiro, categorically denied Machava's claims. "Anyone who accuses SISE should present evidence, and if involvement is shown, we can reply in court", he said.
Monteiro insisted that SISE is not SNASP under another name. SNASP was a para-military body, with powers of arrest, which openly defended the Frelimo regime. The 1991 law establishing SISE, however, insists that it is a non-party body, whose mission is to defend peace, national security, and democracy. Unlike SNASP, it does not run prisons and cannot arrest anyone.
"We are guided by the law, and we obey the orders of the government of the day", said Monteiro. "We too want to know who killed Jose Mascarenhas, because they are threatening national security".
"People should not confuse SISE with SNASP", he added. "These are different times, and the objectives of the two bodies are entirely different".
As for Mascarenhas' desertion from SNASP, Monteiro did not see how this could be a motive for murder. "Many years have passed since he deserted", Monteiro pointed out. "Why should Mascarenhas become a target now? These are false ideas that some people have in their heads. We should let the Criminal Investigation Police work on the case".
The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on 23 March donated to the Mozambican National Statistics Institute (INE) equipment valued at 11 billion meticais (about $440,000) to prepare the next population census, scheduled for August 2007. The equipment consisted of 120 bicycles, 12 motorcycles, 12 computers and 52 tents.
The chairperson of the INE, Joao Loureiro, said this equipment would be used to speed up mapping of the country, prior to the census. This exercise is already five months behind schedule, and Loureiro appealed to the INE's other partners to speed up the release of funds.
Also on 23 March the Italian embassy provided a grant of €534,657 (about $640,000), as the third instalment of a donation towards the "Programme to Support Development of the National Statistical System". This two year programme, costed at over two million euros, will end in August: among the areas the INE has been able to cover with this grant are labour statistics and the informal economy.
The last population census, held in August 1997, counted 15,278,334 people. A follow-up survey showed there had been an omission rate of 5.1 per cent. This gave a total population figure of 16,099,246.
Latest INE projections, taking into account the mortality from the AIDS epidemic, suggest that the country's total population in August 2005 was slightly more than 19 million.
A two day wildcat strike at the Sena company, Mozambique's largest sugar producer, ended on 17 March, with promises by the company that a new wage scale will be approved in April.
The current wage scale has been in force since 2002, the year when the company's sugar mill, at Marromeu on the south bank of the Zambezi, reopened. No sugar had been produced there since 1986, when Renamo rebels destroyed the mill.
The majority shareholders in the Sena company are a consortium of Mauritian companies which have invested around $70 million in rebuilding the sugar mill, and rehabilitating the plantation. The company is currently producing around 100,000 tonnes of sugar a year.
The new pay scale reduces the number of wage categories from 24 to six. According to the head of the Sena company trade union committee, Alberto Joaquim, it is expected to be approved by the Board of Directors in April. It will take effect the following month.
Mozambique's four functioning sugar mills produced a total of 265,000 tonnes of sugar in 2005 - a huge recovery, from the 39,000 tonnes produced in 1998.
The general secretary of Mozambique's largest trade union federation, the OTM, Joaquim Fanheiro, died on 24 March in a Maputo clinic. Fanheiro had been an active trade unionist ever since the foundation of the Production Councils, the forerunner of the OTM, in 1976.
He held a series of local and national posts in the National Union of Chemical, Rubber, Paper and Printing Workers (SINTIQUIGRA), and in the OTM, culminating in his election as general secretary. He played a key role in negotiations with the government on such matters as the annual increases in the statutory minimum wage, and the revision of the labour law.
A statement issued by the OTM Executive Committee declared that Fanheiro "throughout his life as a trade unionist stood out as a leader who was deeply committed to the struggle to defend the rights and interests of workers, and to the development of the Mozambican labour movement".
Traffic resumed on the railway between the northern port of Nacala and landlocked Malawi on 19 March, two days later than hoped. Rail traffic had been suspended due to torrential rains on 9 March, which created a large crater between the stations of Malema and Nataleia. Some 15 metres of line was left dangling in mid-air over the six metre deep crater.
Initial reports that it would take at least a month to repair the damage were promptly denied by the Nacala Development Corridor (CDN), the consortium which is responsible for managing the railway. A CDN source said losses from the interruption could amount to $800,000.
The target for Mozambican tax collection for 2005 was not reached, and so the country's tax administration "must redouble its efforts for efficiency in collecting revenue", declared Finance Minister Manuel Chang on 20 March.
Speaking at the latest of his Ministry's regular seminars on the implementation of tax policy, Chang recalled that the target laid down in the 2005 state budget was to collect revenue of 22,225.9 billion meticais (about $889 million). But in fact only 21,617.4 billion meticais were collected, a shortfall of 2.7 per cent. Tax revenue was thus equivalent to 14.1 per cent of GDP, rather than the 14.5 per cent planned.
A greater effort will be needed this year to meet the considerably higher target of 26,288.3 billion meticais.
The Italian government is to provide €1.34 million ($1.7 million) to support the fight against HIV/AIDS and strengthen mother and child health care in the central province of Sofala.
This follows Italian funding of about $600,000 in 2005 for the health sector in Sofala. Then the money went to the Sofala Provincial Health Directorate, Beira Municipal Council, Beira Central Hospital and the Beira Health Science Institute, under an emergency programme against cholera.
23 people were killed by land mines in Mozambique in 2005, a sharp rise from the three known nine fatalities in 2004, according to the director of the National Demining Institute (IND), Gamiliel Munguambe. Munguambe was speaking in Maputo at the opening of the seventh annual meeting between the IND and the demining operators.
The main problem, in Munguambe's view, is that there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to how many land mines were laid in Mozambique, and where they all are. "This is work that must continue because only thus can we meet the deadline of completing mine clearance by 2009" (the date set for the end of demining in the Ottawa Treaty outlawing anti-personnel mines, to which Mozambique is a signatory).
Munguambe also stressed the need for broader civic awareness programmes to alert citizens to the dangers.
The statistics for 2005 show that humanitarian demining agencies cleared a total of 23 million square metres. These were concentrated in 98 mine fields. A further 19 million square metres were cleared by commercial operators. Currently five humanitarian agencies and 17 companies are working on demining in Mozambique.
Most of the land mines in Mozambique were laid during the war of destabilisation that ended in 1992, by either the Mozambican armed forces of the time, the FAM/FPLM, or by Renamo rebels. But some mines were laid in earlier conflicts - during the war for Mozambican independence, and during Rhodesian incursions into the country in the late 1970s.
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