Maputo — The Canadian government is to donate 20 million US dollars over a 3 year period to a programme to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality rates in Mozambique, with a particular focus on the central province of Zambezia.
On Thursday a programme was launched to increase technical training in the health sector to address Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five, which aim to reduce maternal and child mortality and improve maternal health.
The programme contains a wide range of interventions, including training health professionals and equipping health centres with resources to assist mothers and children.
The programme will be implemented by the Health Ministry and the Zambezia provincial health directorate. Just over half the funds will be spent in Zambezia province.
The child mortality rate in Zambezia province is above the national average. Data from 2008 shows that the child mortality rate (under the age of five) was 206 per thousand live births, compared to a national average of 141 per thousand live births.
In the same year, Zambezia had an infant mortality rate (under the age of one) of 147 per thousand live births, compared to the national average of 95 per thousand live births.
Zambezia also has high rates of neonatal mortality and HIV among adolescents, low per capita expenditure on health, chronic malnutrition and other problems that will be addressed by the programme.
Health Minister Alexander Manguele, who witnessed the programme's launch ceremony, said that despite progresses made by the country, there are still huge challenges lying ahead. But working hand in hand with cooperation partners, the government would be able to meet people's expectations.
"The government will not rest until every woman in Mozambique is able to give birth without the risk of facing death, and until every child can reach the age of five," Manguele stressed.
According to the minister, investing in women and children's health is unequivocally an investment in social and economic development.
For her part, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Mozambique, Jennifer Topping, praised the remarkable progress made by the country in bringing down child mortality.
"In less than 15 years, child mortality dropped from 201 deaths per thousand live births in 1997 to 97 in 2011: which is more than a 50 per cent decline", said Topping, noting that the programme seeks to fast track achievements already made and overcome new obstacles as they arise.
The Canadian ambassador to Mozambique, Alain Latulippe, said that he believes the country is already in possession of the main tools to solve many of the problems, but success depends on strong support for national health policies and robust local leadership to find long term solutions.
Canada, added Latulippe, is committed to supporting Mozambique's plans and priorities, through a comprehensive and integrated approach to strengthen its health systems.
The programme will be implemented in partnership with United Nations agencies including UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.