Mozambique News Agency
Mozambique is in the contradictory situation of facing simultaneously increasing rates of malnutrition and of obesity. According to former health minister Helder Martins (who is now a senior adviser to the Ministry), obesity has become common in Mozambican cities due to a sedentary life style, lack of physical exercise, and excessive consumption of unhealthy foods, laden with sugar and carbohydrates. Meanwhile, lack of food is at its most severe among children, and the rate of malnutrition among children under the age of five rose from 36 to 46 per cent between 1997 and 2006. Martins put the obesity rate among adults at 30 per cent.
Speaking on 19 June, at the second day of a symposium on food and nutritional security, Martins described both these rates as very high, and both, in their different ways, were the result of poor nutrition. He added that people who are suffering from malnutrition are not always poor and vulnerable. The problem was sometimes a lack of knowledge about which foods should be purchased.
Deputy Health Minister Aida Libombo told AIM that malnutrition is also associated with cultural questions. She cited parts of the country where all members of a household eat from the same container this meant that the children did not receive enough to eat because they were effectively competing with the adults for the same food.
Libombo thought that knowing how to use food and to guarantee its availability throughout the year were the major challenges facing Mozambicans in the battle to reduce food and nutritional insecurity.
As for obesity, Libombo thought this was on the increase because people with money to buy food were making the wrong choices. They eat lots of carbohydrates, they eat things that are very sweet, they drink beer, she said.
Addressing the opening session of the symposium on 18 June, President Armando Guebuza stressed that with hunger, nobody can make full use of their strength. With hunger there is no work, but because it is with work that we can do away with hunger, we have to find and apply formulas that ensure this work, whenever hunger is anticipated.
President Guebuza also stressed the damaging effects of malnutrition on the human immune system, and hence on the capacity of people to resist disease. It affects childrens growth and their school performance, he said, and it is also responsible for child mortality. Among women it contributes to complications during and after birth.
President Guebuza argued that nutritional problems will not be solved merely by increasing agricultural production and productivity, since lack of food security does not arise simply from a deficit in production. Also crucial was the way in which production is managed, and how the goods produced are placed on the consumer markets such matters directly influenced solutions to food security questions.
He also stressed that eradicating malnutrition involves the adoption of dietary habits which prioritise a healthier and more varied diet. Availability of food did not in itself mean that households were eating a balanced diet, with all the nutrients required. On this issue, President Guebuza stressed the role of schools, training centres and health units in persuading people to adopt healthy dietary habits.
The President suggested that the sharp rise in international grain prices should be a stimulus to higher production by Mozambican farmers. The confidence of peasant farmers should be built up, he stressed, eliminating the current situation of some provinces having a food surplus, while others are in deficit.
The representative in Mozambique of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO), Maria Jose Zimmerman, told the symposium that Mozambiques Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would have grown by an extra three per cent had it not been for the reduction in individuals productive capacity because they were malnourished.
The Ministry of Agriculture has even put a price tag on malnutrition: $185.3 million a year (broken down in a cost of $98 million from protein and calorie deficiencies, $32.3 million for iodine deficiency, and $55 million for iron deficiency which causes anaemia).
Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 6 June received the 2008 Global Womens leadership Award at the annual Global Summit of Women, held in Hanoi. The summit is very much a business event, and proudly describes itself as Davos for Women.
Accepting the award, Diogo told the summit that Mozambique is among the top three countries in Africa in terms of womens participation in politics 37 per cent of parliamentary deputies are women, as are 26 per cent of government ministers. Lower leadership levels were once almost exclusively male preserves but now two out of the 11 provincial governors, and 21 out of 128 district administrators are women.
As for the economy, Diogo stated that women play a remarkable role in areas such as the informal sector, the tourism and hotel industry, and in real estate.
The government, she stressed, was committed to creating a favourable business environment that promotes equal opportunities for men and women. This had been expressed in measures such as the thorough overhaul of the Commercial Code and the sweeping away of red tape.
Investment in womens education was key, Diogo added, and in Mozambiques case had heavily focused on girls enrolment and the placing of proper incentives so as to have girls continue their schooling from the earliest stages of their education through to the complete empowerment of their personality.
Diogo admitted, there is still a long way to go to ensure full womens empowerment and the full implementation of womens human rights agenda. Access to and control over economic resources remain conditioned by traditions that place women in a subordinate position with lower social status.
Speaking to reporters in Maputo, Diogo said she regarded this award as another incentive to go on working on behalf of Mozambique and its women.
Women had made considerable political advances in Mozambique, she said, but now we need to advance in terms of the economic empowerment of women. This is what will give women genuine autonomy.
Asked about the threat of AIDS, Diogo (who is chairperson of the National AIDS Council) claimed that the Mozambican rollout of the anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment that prolongs the lives of HIV-positive people was quite unequalled. In just a couple of years, Mozambique had moved from a situation where ARV therapy could only be obtained in a handful of clinics in the major cities to one where ARV drugs are available in all 128 of the countrys districts.
The challenge now, she said, was to ensure more direct contact with the communities in the fight against AIDS.
The latest statistics on HIV prevalence suggest that the infection rate has stabilized - 16 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 49 are HIV-positive, much the same percentage as in 2004.
The Mozambican and Norwegian governments signed in Maputo, on 18 June, an agreement, under which Norway is to grant $4.2 million to hire technical experts for the publicly owned electricity company EDM, and for the National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH). Part of the money will also be used to strengthen the two companies' environmental programmes.
ENH will receive $1.7 million to be used until 2010, while EDM will benefit from the remaining $2.5 million to cover the 2008/09 period.
According to the Norwegian Embassy, with this money the two companies will be able to employ technical staff to work on various energy mega-projects in the country.
Among these projects are the building of the Mpanda Nkuwa dam, on the Zambezi River, the building of a gas-fired power station at Temane in the southern province of Inhambane, and development of the Moatize coalfields, which includes a planned coal-fired power station.
The French and Mozambican governments on 18 June signed a convention under which France is to grant €9 million (about $13.3 million) to fund activities in the health sector and improve people's living conditions.
The document was signed between the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Ernesto Gove, and the French Ambassador to Mozambique, Thierry Viteau, in representation of the French Development Agency.
Gove said on the occasion that the French aid will allow the expansion of the primary health care services, and reduce rates of child mortality from chronic diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Viteau said that the funds are to be divided into three annual disbursements for the next three years for the donors Common Fund for the health service, known as ProSaude. He added that women and children's health and prevention against HIV/AIDS deserve special attention.
The idea is to reduce deaths among women and children, and vertical transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child, he said. We also want to prevent infections among young people aged between 15 and 24, and increase the number of beneficiaries of antiretroviral treatment.
Viteau recalled that this is the fourth time that his country has contributed to the Common Fund for health since 2002, thus bringing the total amount to €23.5 million. When this is added to the €18.9 million spent on supporting individual projects in health, it turns out that since 2001 the total French contribution to the Mozambican health sector totals over $42 million.
From July work will start to rehabilitate or expand 16 technical and professional schools and institutes across Mozambique under the direct management of the governments Integrated Professional Education Reform Programme (PIREP).
The World Bank and the Dutch government have guaranteed $19.6 million for 11 of these establishments. Of this sum, $13 million will be spent on the school buildings and $6.6 million on equipment. The other five institutes will be financed by Portuguese cooperation and by the Spanish Salesian network.
Apart from these 16 establishments, a further nine will be rehabilitated with funds from Italy and Canada, and from the African Development Bank. Thus a total of 25 institutions are involved in the reform, according to Zeferino Martins, the executive director of the Professional Education Reform Commission.
This means that PIREP is covering a minority of the countrys technical schools, since 35 establishments are not included. Martins said institutes were included based on the financial capacities of the programme.
Speaking on the second day of a meeting of directors of technical schools and institutes in the resort of Chidenguele, in the southern province of Gaza, Martins said the aim of PIREP was to create skills for development. The programme involved drawing up a national framework of professional qualifications, developing the curriculum for professional and technical education, rehabilitating the buildings, training specialist teachers, upgrading the management of the institutes, all prior to launching the pilot phase of the reform in February 2009.
Currently the contents of the curriculum are being finalized for the first courses in administration and management, agriculture and agro-industry, industrial maintenance, and the hotel and tourism industry.
But the take-off of the pilot phase could yet be delayed. All depends on the pace of the rehabilitation of the buildings. A member of the PIREP technical staff, Zelia Menete, said the problem could be solved by giving priority to rehabilitating those classrooms that will be absolutely necessary for the pilot phase.
Furthermore, she added, some of the institutions selected for this phase are not included in the PIREP plan for rehabilitation of infrastructures, and others do not need major building work. She was referring in particular to the Chimoio Agricultural Institute and the Maputo Industrial Institute, which are already in reasonable condition.
For the pilot phase, funds exist to retrain 84 of the existing teachers.
The budget is the Achilles heel of this five-year programme. For once the rehabilitation is complete (by the end of 2009), further money will be required to ensure the maintenance both of the buildings and of the equipment. On this matter, the Chidenguele meeting recommended a joint reflection that would necessarily include the internal management of each technical school or institute.
The Agriculture Ministry is to have its budget increased from the current four per cent to between six and 10 per cent of the total state budget, in order to lead the governments drive for increased food production, starting in the 2008/09 agricultural campaign. The plan, to run until 2011, was approved by the Mozambican Cabinet on 17 June.
Government spokesperson, Deputy Education Minister Luis Covane, told reporters that Mozambique currently runs a deficit of 316,000 tonnes of rice. The country needs 539,000 tonnes of rice a year, but it is producing only 223,000 tonnes.
As for wheat, Mozambicans consume 472,000 tonnes a year, but the country produces only 3,000 tonnes (in the western province of Tete), leaving a gap of 469,000 tonnes, to be covered by imports.
Covane added that the relevant ministries, namely Finance, Planning and Development, Industry and Trade, and the Agriculture Ministry itself, are already working to adjust the Agriculture Ministry's budget.
The food production plan, which is part of the national Green Revolution strategy, will call for joint efforts between the government and the private sector, and will be centred on the production of rice, maize, wheat, cassava, and potatoes, in order to guarantee food security.
The plan includes components such as the import of fertilizers, the import and marketing of improved seeds, developing irrigation systems, the training of rural extensionists, and boosting agro-industry.
The Mozambican government has announced that in future its relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), will take responsibility for resettling the victims of natural disasters. To this end the government has set up a Reconstruction Coordination Office (GACOR) that will function as an operational arm of the INGC, like the existing National Emergency Operations Centre (CENOE).
A Cabinet meeting on 10 June approved the relevant alterations to the INGC statutes allowing the creation of GACOR.
According to the government spokesperson, Deputy Education Minister Luis Covane, GACOR will deal exclusively and permanently with drawing up and implementing strategies and plans of action to resettle the victims of disasters.
GACOR will coordinate with other government agencies, it will plan the use of land for building safe housing, and it will provide water supply, sanitation and other basic facilities in resettlement areas.
Previously, the INGCs responsibilities had been restricted to the rescue and emergency phases of disaster response. Now, however, it will also take responsibility for the permanent resettlement of victims in their new homes.
Minister of industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, began a visit to Vietnam on 11 June, where he is to negotiate the purchase of rice at a preferential price. According to official sources contacted by AIM, the government hopes to purchase 400,000 tonnes of Vietnamese rice.
Currently Mozambiques rice requirements are 539,000 tonnes a year. The rice harvest is estimated at 223,000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 316,000 tonnes.
In addition to negotiating the rice deal, Fernando will seek technical assistance for establishing an incubating agency to promote small and medium companies. Mozambique is also interested in aid for setting up rural industrialization demonstration centres.
Mozambique has excellent relations with Vietnam. President Armando Guebuza visited Vietnam in January 2007, and General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nong Duc Manh, reciprocated with a visit to Maputo this April.
The Maputo publicly owned bus company, TPM, has received ten new buses out of the hundred to be purchased before the end of this year.
The company now has 89 vehicles. However, at any one time over 40 are off the road. The situation should improve significantly in the near future, since a further 20 buses are expected before the end of June.
The vehicles are all Volkswagen buses, assembled in South Africa. Purchasing buses in South Africa means that spare parts can be easily obtained, thus reducing the risk that the buses will be paralysed by simple mechanical breakdowns.
Even with these new buses, TPM has postponed to a later date any opening of new routes, in addition to the 34 it currently operates. TPM routes cover the Maputo and Matola municipalities, and TPM buses also run to the neighbouring districts of Boane and Marracuene.
Purchasing new buses was a promise made by Transport Minister Paulo Zucula during his first visit to TPM in March, in order to minimise the serious transport crisis in the city, and reduce dependence on the privately owned minibuses (colloquially known as chapas), which currently provide much of Maputos passenger transport. To operate without difficulties, TPM says it needs at least 150 buses.
Zucula has also promised to strengthen the capacity of the TPM repair workshop.
Mozambiques production and exports of aluminium will be lower than expected due to electricity shortages in South Africa. Raitt Marshall, managing director of the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, confirmed on 10 June that this year would see a reduction in exports.
According to Marshall in late January MOZAL received instructions to reduce its electricity consumption by 10 per cent (normal consumption at the smelter is around 950 megawatts, making MOZAL the largest consumer of electricity in Mozambique).
The power for MOZAL comes from MOTRACO, a company formed by the South African, Mozambican and Swazi electricity companies, Eskom, EDM and SEB but MOTRACO draws its power from Eskom. Due to chromic under-investment in new plant, Eskom is no longer able to meet the demand from all its clients, and so rolling power cuts hit South Africa.
Eskom told its main industrial customers to cut their use of power, and the aluminium smelters in which BHP-Billiton is the major shareholder, were no exception. Marshall said that all three of the smelters (Bayside and Hillside in the South African port of Richards Bay, and MOZAL in Maputo) had to take out of commission several of the furnaces (known as pots), where alumina is reduced to aluminium by electrolysis.
To achieve the required 10 per cent cut in January, MOZAL was obliged to switch off 47 of its 500 pots. Subsequent negotiations with Eskom led to a concentration of pot closures in the oldest smelter (Bayside), so that more power could be spared for the more modern smelters at Hillside and MOZAL.
MOZAL is braced for further disruption. Marshall said the company has been told by Eskom that it will be five years before the power supplies are normalized.
MOZAL officials told the meeting that the company continues to meet high environmental and safety standards. The main pollutant emitted by aluminium smelters is fluoride. The World Bank sets the maximum acceptable figure for fluoride emissions into the atmosphere at one kilo of fluoride per tonne of aluminium produced. Figures provided by health, safety and environmental specialist Ana Lobo show that in most months MOZAL emits less than half a kilo of fluoride per tonne of aluminium. In 2001 the figure was 0.68 kilos, falling to 0.61 in 2002, 0.46 in 2003 and 0.39 in 2004.
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