March 30, 2004

Fewer living in poverty, says Prime Minister

The Mozambican government is surpassing its poverty reduction targets, according to figures given by Prime Minister Luisa Diogo. Under the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA) the target was set of reducing the incidence of poverty from almost 70 per cent (the figure of 1997) to 60 per cent by 2005 and 50 per cent by 2010. Citing the recently published results from the 2002/03 household survey undertaken by the National Statistics Institute (INE), Diogo told the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, that the poverty incidence had already dropped to 54.1 per cent. Answering questions from deputies, Diogo said that these statistics, plus those from a recent demography and health survey, also undertaken by the INE (but the results from which are not yet publicly available), "show that we are on the right path".

The "fundamental instrument" for poverty reduction is education, said Diogo, and so "investment in education accounts for about 20 per cent of total public expenditure, and with the growth in overall public spending, the real value of spending on education has been increasing". The expansion in primary education had vastly outstripped the conservative targets in PARPA. Between 1999 and 2003, the number of pupils in first level primary education had grown from two million to over 2.8 million, the Prime Minister stated.

Enrolment in second level primary education had almost doubled over the same period - from 187.000 to 355.000. The same trend can be seen in secondary education, though the numbers are still very small - there were 66.000 pupils in secondary school in 1999, and in 2003 there were 141.000. The number of pupils in pre-university education had grown from 8.350 to 18.290. The expansion in the school network has cut the time taken by pupils to walk to school. Diogo also noticed that the number of primary school pupils whose school is less than an hour's walking distance away had risen from 74.9 to 91.7 per cent between 1999 and 2003.

As for health care, the building of new rural hospitals and other health units meant that the percentage of the rural population who could reach a health unit in less than an hour's walk had risen from 40.1 to 54 per cent between 1997 and 2003. Coverage under the Expanded Vaccination Programme, aimed at vaccinating children in the first two years of life, children in the first grades of primary school, and women of childbearing age against the main preventable diseases, rose from 47 per cent in 1997 to 63 per cent in 2003. As for the main killer disease, malaria, the Prime Minister said that last year about 901.000 houses were sprayed with insecticide against mosquitoes, giving some degree of protection to about 4.5 million people. More than 300.000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in 2003, bringing to over 600.000 the number distributed since 1999.

The government had also been highly active in the struggle against AIDS. 43 Counselling and Voluntary Treatment Centres (GATVs) had been opened in 2003. More than 200.000 people had sought the privacy of these centres to take an HIV test. 26 per cent of them proved to be HIV-positive "which shows the seriousness of the pandemic", said Diogo.
He also rejected the habitual claim from the main opposition party, the Renamo, that food aid is being distributed only to supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party. The Government had no knowledge of any such discrimination on political lines, and would find such behaviour repugnant, she said. "Food aid is distributed according to a system that is coordinated with national and international partners", she explained. "Foodstuff is sent to the most affected districts via the World Food Programme, and is distributed to the beneficiaries by NGOs, with the participation of the state administration". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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