May 16, 2003

World Bank funds for AIDS and public sector reform / cholera under control

The World Bank is to provide Mozambique with about 80 million US dollars over the next four years to support the battle against HIV/AIDS, and to assist in the reform of the public sector. Finance Minister Luisa Diogo and the World Bank country director, Darius Mans, signed two agreements on these issues in Maputo on Friday, May 16. The larger sum (55 million dollars) is go towards preventing the spread of HIV, and treating people who are already HIV-positive. The remaining funds (25.6 million dollars) will support the public sector reform. The support for the anti-AIDS programme takes the form of a grant, rather than a loan. Diogo said the government wanted to use this money to improve its preventive programmes, to treat the opportunist diseases that invade people whose immune systems have been ravaged by HIV, and to administer anti-retroviral drugs - particularly to HIV-positive pregnant women, to prevent them passing the virus on to their new-born babies, and to health workers who deal directly with HIV positive people, and may be at risk of infection. As for the money going to the public sector reform, Diogo said this would be used to improve the quality of the services offered by the public sector.

Mans described the two projects supported by these funds as "central to the implementation of PARPA (the government's Action Plan against Absolute Poverty). These projects originate from PARPA". He said that support for the public sector reform has three fulcral and interlinked goals. First, it aims to improve services offered by the public sector, through decentralising decision- making, and rationalising and simplifying procedures. "This implies that service management should be handled at provincial and district level, leaving the central authorities to concentrate on policy and monitoring aspects", he said.

The second goal, he continued, was to establish incentives that motivate public servants to respond to the needs of citizens, and which will enable the public sector to recruit and retain key professionals. Finally, the reform should improve the management of public resources by establishing mechanism for efficient allocation of funds, and holding officials responsible for how they are used.

Meanwhile, the cholera epidemic, that has affected several Mozambican provinces since early this year, has finally come under control, with only a few new cases being notified in the two main cities, Maputo and Beira, and some districts of the southern province of Gaza. The improvement is due to the intervention of the health authorities, particularly the use of chlorine in the water sources, and also to the success of a public awareness campaign.

Despite this stabilization, the health authorities are still worried about the poor supply of drinking water, particularly in those Gaza districts, where the supplies depend on tanks of the railway company (CFM). "What we did, by arranging for water storage containers, was to try and solve a this specific problem", said Xavier, during a recent visit to Mabalane to assess the situation.

In Maputo, 15 patients were admitted to the Cholera Treatment Centre over the last two days, bringing to 59 the number of hospitalised patients. Maputo Health director Olivia Ferreira describes the situation as stable if compared with the previous two weeks. She said that 3,078 cases and 14 deaths were reported in the city since the outbreak of the disease on 16 February. (AIM, Maputo)

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