Maputo — Chronic malnutrition affects 43 per cent of Mozambican children under the age of five, according to the Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, Virgilio Mateus.
Speaking in Maputo on Thursday at the launch of a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on “The situation of children in Mozambique, 2014”, Mateus said the figure, serious though it is, is an improvement on 2013, when 48 per cent of all children under five were suffering from chronic malnutrition.
He recognised that malnutrition constitutes a threat to the survival and to the healthy development of children and that greater efforts are needed to improve the well-being of Mozambican children.
“We must work still further in favour of our children”, he said.
“Chronic malnutrition remains a challenge, although it is true that thanks to the work and efforts made by the government, civil society, cooperation partners and other stakeholders, the situation is tending to improve”.
The child mortality figures are also improving. In 2003, 153 out of every 1,000 children born died before their fifth birthday, By 2011, this mortality rate had fellen to 97 per 1,000 live births.
The UNICEF report warns of sharp regional disparities, pointing out that a child living in the northern provinces is twice as likely to suffer from chronic malnutrition as a child living in the south. There are seven provinces where the child mortality rate is still in excess of 100 per 1,000 live births. One of these (Gaza) is in the south, but the other six (Zambezia, Tete, Cabo Delgado, Manica, Sofala and Niassa) are in the north.
The worst province for children, according to the UNICEF study, is Zambezia, where not only chronic but also acute malnutrition is a serious problem. 9.4 per cent of children in Zambezia are acutely malnourished - the highest rate in the country.
Zambezia also has the highest rate of child mortality (142 per 1,000 live births), the lowest rate of births in health units (28 per cent), and the lowest percentage of people drinking from safe water sources (26 per cent) while only 47 per cent of children in the province under one year of age have received all the basic vaccinations.