Mozambique News Agency

No.269, 3rd February 2004


President Chissano replies to critics of Africa

President Joaquim Chissano on 23 January rejected the position of those western leaders who want countries such as Mozambique to behave like those nations which won their independence centuries ago.

Speaking as one of a six member panel, discussing how to eradicate poverty, as part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Chissano pointed out that African countries attained their independence in a state of mass illiteracy. Taking Mozambique as an example, he said that at the time of independence, in 1975, the illiteracy rate was over 90 per cent, although it has now dropped to between 50 and 60 per cent.

"Incredible though it may seem, at that time we didn't have a single taxi driver, let alone any Mozambicans who owned taxis", he said. "In the same way we didn't have any train drivers or aircraft pilots".

"In almost everything, we had to start from zero", he stressed. That included the training of teachers at all levels, doctors, jurists and other professionals necessary for a functioning modern society. He said he found it hard to respond to people in the west who claimed that the main problem in African countries begins with a refusal to accept reform in public institutions. "I don't see how you can reform what you don't have", he remarked.

"We would be very happy if we possessed some of these infrastructures and we just had to reform them", he continued. "But the worst of it is that we don't have them. What we have been doing is creating them from nothing".

He thought it incredible that African countries were accused of having legal systems that don't work properly. In Mozambique's case, the colonial power "left almost no legal system worthy of the name. Not only had they trained no jurists, but the laws we inherited from them were not in line with our reality." President Chissano refuted the arguments of some of his co-panellists, such as the economist Hernando de Soto, who insisted that African countries were not advancing because their leaderships had prevented their peoples from making use of what he called "the advantages of the market economy".

President Chissano retorted that "when you reach independence in a situation where your people are illiterate, and none of your citizens even owns a corner shop, I don't see how, from one day to the next. you can take advantage of this market economy". He stressed that all societies, even those that are called developed today, needed time in the past for their peoples to master the art of running businesses well before they could derive any advantage from this.

"Training a good company manager is not the same thing as baking a loaf of bread", declared Chissano. "It takes a long time and we are still at the start of this process. Development is a long process that can take centuries".

He had therefore insisted that if advanced countries really want to see African nations reach the same level that they have attained, then they should help in all ways possible. He made it clear that this assistance should not be seen as undeserved, or as a favour, because the backwardness in which African countries find themselves resulted in historical factors imposed on them over the centuries, often by the same countries who express annoyance at Africa today.

He mentioned this, President Chissano added, because "many excuses" have been used to deny this aid, such as alleging that "we can't help this or that country before they do one thing or another, such as good governance, or respecting human rights". He thought that all such demands or excuses were not valid when viewed in a historical context. He did not think it correct to demand that countries that have just emerged from the colonial abyss should do the same as those who have been independent for centuries.

"Good governance is also a product of development itself which is partly a consequence of time", President Chissano concluded. "To demand that young nations do the same as older ones is the same as demanding that a child who is still crawling should walk like an adult".

World Bank pledges $600 million

The World Bank has pledged support of about $600 million to Mozambique, for the period between 2004 and 2007.

Louis Kasekende, the executive director of the World Bank for 22 African countries, including Mozambique, made this announcement during a press conference in Maputo on 28 January. He said this money is to be used in the traditional areas where the World Bank has been investing, including infrastructures, transport, education, health, sanitation, water supply, and capacity building.

Kasekende said that about half of the World Bank's support to Mozambique is go into infrastructures. In this area he mentioned the Sena railway line from the port of Beira to the western province of Tete, and the proposed bridge over the Zambezi at Caia, which will be a key link in the main north-south highway, as some of the most important objects for the Bank's attention.

He did not give any figures for those undertakings, saying that all depends on the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations with other partners which, in the case of the bridge, include Italy, Japan, and the United States. He expressed hope that these negotiations will soon reach a conclusion so that the various partners may decide on the amounts they are to contribute.

UNICEF highlights vitamin and mineral deficiency

The United Nations has published a report highlighting the devastating effects of vitamin and mineral deficiency (VMD) in developing countries, and indicates how the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans could be greatly improved for little cost.

The report, "Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency - A global damage assessment report", states that "vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect a third of the world's people - debilitating minds, bodies, energies, and the economic prospects of nations.

But for once the world is confronted by a problem which could be brought under control in a relatively short time and at a relatively low cost".

The authors of the report argue that few outside specialist circles are aware of the scale of the problem or what it means for individuals and nations. It is pointed out that the deficiencies result in: the impairment of hundreds of millions of growing minds and the lowering of national IQs; the wholesale damage to immune systems and deaths of more than a million children a year; and 200,000 serious birth defects and the deaths of 50,000 young women a year during pregnancy and childbirth.

The main findings of the report are that:

The report lists steps that need to be taken to form a solution:

fortification - adding essential vitamins and minerals to foods that are regularly consumed by a significant proportion of the population (such as flour, salt, sugar, cooking oil and margarine);

The United Nations General Assembly in 2002 set goals including the elimination of iodine deficiency by next year, the elimination of vitamin A deficiency by 2010, and the reduction by at least a third of iron deficiency anaemia by 2010.

To measure progress towards these goals, the Micronutrient Initiative and UNICEF will shortly be delivering a VMD Damage Assessment Report for each of 80 individual countries, including Mozambique.

It is clear from the report's estimates that much work needs to be done before Mozambique reaches these targets.

It is estimated that every year 134,000 children in Mozambique are born mentally impaired because of iodine deficiency and that 17 percent of the population have goitre. 80 percent of children under five and 54 percent of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anaemia, and there are 1,470 maternal deaths each year from severe anaemia.

A quarter of Mozambican children under six years old have sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency and 14,000 children are thought to die each year due to lack of vitamin A. A lack of folic acid in the diet of pregnant Mozambicans results in 1,500 neural tube birth defects per year.

In all, the report estimates that Mozambique loses 1.2 per cent of GDP because of vitamin and mineral deficiency.

There are efforts to tackle the problem in Mozambique, with 62 percent of salt being iodised and 71 percent of children receiving at least one dose of vitamin A per year.

In conclusion, the report states that "VMD touches the live of perhaps a third of the world's people. The effects on adults, and particularly on women, are subtle and insidious. The effects on nations, and economic development, are only just beginning to be measured. But at the heart of the VMD problem is the fact that it is in the vital, vulnerable, earliest months of life that the lack of essential vitamins and minerals has its most devastating and durable effects. It is children who sustain the severest damage".

It continues that "when so much could be achieved for so many and for so little, it would be a matter of global disgrace if vitamin and mineral deficiency were not brought under control in the years immediately ahead".

UNICEF supplies water tanks and chlorine

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has sent six flexible water tanks and three tonnes of chlorine to the central provinces of Sofala and Zambezia and to Nampula in the north, in response to the government's call for support in the fight against cholera.

The disease has claimed at least 30 lives since its onset in late December. However, health authorities are reporting a reduction in the number of cases admitted to the Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC), at the Mavalane General Hospital in Maputo. The Maputo CTC has seen 4,246 patients since the outbreak of the disease, and has reported 21 deaths, the last of which occurred on 30 January. That day there were 719 patients still under medical care at the Centre. The centre received 181 patients on 1 February, which was 33 less than on 30 January. The drop in the number of cases is attributed both to the reduction in rainfall in Maputo, and to the intensified prevention campaigns.

Meanwhile, the central city of Beira recorded 54 new cases and one death from cholera since 30 January. This brings to 951 the total number of cases since December, of whom five have died. There are 74 patients still under treatment at the local centre.

Also in Sofala province, the district of Maringue reported 29 new cases over the weekend, bringing the total to 147 cases, while in Marromeu and Buzi districts, the situation is described as stable.

In Zambezia province 12 patients are still under medical care, six of whom were admitted over the weekend. Zambezia has now recorded a total of 75 diagnosed cases.

Despite the decline, the health authorities warn that the situation may worsen any time, while the rainy season still lasts.

Mozambique imports effective anti-malarial drug

Health Minister Francisco Songane has announced the import of a more effective drug to combat malaria. Speaking to AIM in the Swiss resort of Davos, where he had accompanied President Joaquim Chissano to the World Economic Forum, Songane said that a shipment of Artemisinin, a "second line" anti-malarial drug, is on its way to Mozambique.

This is the first time the drug has been imported, other than sporadically, and follows a government decision to opt for more effective anti-malarial treatment, since the malaria parasite is increasingly resistant to the classic "first line" drugs, such as chloroquine and fansidar.

Songane said there were various factors behind the rise in resistance, but he thought the most important was that many patients do not complete their course of anti-malarial treatment. When people take less than the recommended dose of the drugs, the parasite gains resistance, mutates and can no longer be killed with "first line" drugs.

Mozambique is importing artemisinin at a cost of $1.1 million. Using a World Health Organisation (WHO) arrangement, Mozambique is benefiting from a discount. "If we imported it directly from the manufacturer, we would have had to pay twice as much", said Songane.

Artemisinin is a relatively expensive drug, with a real cost of five dollars for each person taking it. This compares with 30 cents a head for chloroquine and 40 cents a head for fansidar.

But this comparison is unfair, given that in so many cases treatment with chloroquine or fansidar no longer works, while artemisinin is universally recognised as the most effective anti- malarial drug currently available. Songane said artemisinin is intended initially for urban areas, since it is here that there are large numbers of patients who can no longer be treated with the first line drugs.

The disease spreads more rapidly in towns, where large numbers of people live together, and where mosquitoes can easily bite many victims in a short period of time. Among scattered rural households the spread of the disease is slower. So in the countryside the health authorities will continue to rely on chloroquine and fansidar, only resorting to the second line drug in case of necessity.

Songane pointed out that malaria kills more Mozambicans than any other disease: despite this, too many people did not regard mosquitoes as a serious threat, and tolerated their presence in their homes. These deaths are unnecessary. Almost all those who die of malaria do so because they sought medical help too late, or because they interrupted their treatment before the end of the recommended dose.

Songane drew a tentative link between HIV/AIDS and vulnerability to malaria. Although definitive conclusions have not yet been drawn, there are signs that when HIV-positive people catch malaria, their situation immediately becomes serious, because their immune systems are already weakened.

As for treatment of people infected with HIV, Songane said the Health Ministry is making efforts to treat more people with anti-retroviral drugs, which prolong sufferers' lives, although they do not cure the disease. The number of Mozambicans undergoing anti-retroviral treatment should rise from the current 2,120 to about 7,000 this year.

But since about 1.5 million Mozambicans are HIV-positive, this is just a drop in the ocean, Songane admitted. Of this figure, 120,000 are already ill or need to start anti-retroviral treatment at once.

He was optimistic that the number of people treated with these drugs will rise in the coming years, since the cost of generic anti-retrovirals is tending to fall. The cost now is $300 per person per year.

Mozambique should be able to produce its own anti- retrovirals in the near future. Brazil has promised to build a pharmaceutical plant producing these drugs in Mozambique, and Songane said another investor is interested in building a similar factory. He was not at liberty to reveal the name of this investor.

"With the Brazilians, everything is going well", he said, "and in February we will have another working meeting on this subject. Apart from the Brazilians, another group has appeared which is interested in building another factory. On our side, we have given the green light, and it's now up to them to press ahead or not".

Both the Brazilians and the unnamed second investors intend their factories to supply not only Mozambique but other countries in the region and beyond.

Prime Minister confirms he will leave government

Prime Minister Pascoal Movumbi on 20 January confirmed that he has accepted the post of High Commissioner of the medical research body, EDCTP, and could therefore leave the government at any moment. He was speaking at a Maputo press conference, in the presence of the Director for Health and Life Science Research of EDCTP, Octavi Trias.

EDCTP brings together European and African scientists, in a partnership aimed at clinical tests of new medicines, microbicides and vaccines for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. It is aimed specifically at the needs of developing countries.

The invitation to Mocumbi was an initiative of the Coordinating Committee of the African countries who have subscribed to the partnership, and won the support of the European Union. However, he made it clear that he would not leave the government until President Joaquim Chissano has found a replacement.

"We in Mozambique have been involved in the search for means and methods to combat effectively diseases that are related to poverty, particularly malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS", said Mocumbi. "This fits in perfectly with the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty".

Mozambican scientists had thus been involved in a dialogue with their European partners over how to combat these diseases, and concluded that a new partnership between Europe and developing countries should be drawn up specifically in this field.

To make EDCTP operational, and to establish a genuine and long term partnership with developing countries, the European Commission, together with the European Parliament, has decided to grant the new body 200 million euros (about $250 million).

According to Trias, the budget needed for the 2003-2007 period is 600 million euros. Apart from the 200 million from the Commission, a further 200 million would come from the member states of the EU. The final 200 million, he said, "will have to be found from the pharmaceutical industry, and from non-profit making and private bodies".

Nampula hit by tropical storm

Over 2,000 houses and other buildings were destroyed by the passage of tropical storm "Elita" across the northern province of Nampula, on 29 January. The meteorology authorities estimated the speed of the wind at about 26 kilometres per hour, and the amount of rain that fell at 55.5 millimetres. There are no reports of loss of life.

The most affected areas were in the districts of Memba, Nacala-a-Velha, and Mogincual, and Nampula city itself, where houses, mostly built in flimsy materials, were either completely destroyed, or severely damaged.

New mayors take office in February

The new mayors and municipal assemblies elected in Mozambique's 19 November municipal elections will take office between 5 and 10 February, the Minister of State Administration, Jose Chichava, announced on 19 January.

He said the investiture of the elected bodies will take place in two phases, starting with the larger municipalities.

On 5 February the new municipal assemblies will take office in the cities of Pemba, Lichinga, Nampula, Quelimane, Tete, Chimoio, Beira, Inhambane, Xai-Xai, Matola, Maputo, Cuamba, Nacala, Angoche, and Maxixe. The following day the mayors of these 14 municipalities will be sworn into office.

On 9 and 10 February come the turns of the municipal assemblies and mayors in the smaller municipalities - namely Mocimboa da Praia, Montepuez, Metangula, Mozambique Island, Monapo, Mocuba, Milange, Gurue, Moatize, Manica, Catandica, Dondo, Marromeu, Vilanculo, Chokwe, Chibuto, Mandlhakazi and Manhica.

In principle, mayors should be sworn into office five days after their respective municipal assemblies - but in order to simplify matters, and to reduce costs, this time the two swearing-in ceremonies will take place on successive days.

Once the mayors are in office, they will choose their councillors, and at the first meeting of the new Municipal Councils there will be a formal handover of power from the outgoing mayor to the incoming one. The official residence of the mayor - in the municipalities where such a building exists - will then be turned over to its new occupant.

Chichava pointed out that some of the smaller municipalities not only have no official residences for mayors, but are even short of basic office furniture. Thus in Metangula, on the shores of Lake Niassa, the mayor has to take a table and chair from his house to his office.

Education should be free for all children

Education Minister Alcido Nguenha declared in Maputo on 21 January that the government is making efforts to eliminate all the barriers to education free of charge for all children.

Speaking at the Maputo launch of the annual report of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Nguenha attacked the current bureaucratic system whereby parents can be exempted from all education fees, if they present a certificate of poverty.

"What we want is that there should be no certificates of poverty to show that a child is poor. It's fundamental that education should be free for everyone", said Nguenha.

He added that education is a basic requirement, not only for poverty reduction, but also in allowing every citizen to lead an active life. "Knowledge is an instrument of liberation, it's the true liberation of humanity", he stressed. Nguenha argued that educating society was the best way of fighting poverty. Hence the government would remain committed to education for all, and in particular would exempt all children from enrolment fees.

The education of girls was especially important. Nguenha said the government is fully aware that educating women will reduce absolute poverty and infant mortality. The minister added that the books produced for the new basic curriculum have been written from a gender perspective, with the aim of reducing discrimination against women.

This year's UNICEF report present girls' education as one of the most crucial issues for development. It is also an appeal in the name of the 121 million children across the globe who are not at school. Of these more than half, about 65 million, are girls. In Mozambique this year, about a million children of school age are unable to study because of lack of space in the schools.

Ossufo murder: further arrests

The Mozambican police have announced the arrest in the western province of Tete of Frederico Chilengue, believed to be the leader of the gang that murdered Armando Ossufo, director of the Maputo top security jail, in December, reports "Noticias" on 24 January.

With the latest arrest, the number of people detained in connection with this murder has risen to seven. The police claim that Chilengue was the man who drove the car stolen from Ossufo, a Mazda, after the gang had murdered him at a Maputo petrol station.

Chilengue drove the car for several hundred kilometres, using forged vehicle documents, believed to have been supplied by a South African member of the gang. But at the bridge over the Save river the police stopped the car.

Chilengue made a run for it through the bush, but a second man in the car was arrested. During the police interrogations, the killers say they murdered Ossufo simply because he refused to hand over his car to them. The police are not convinced by this motive - firstly, because Mazdas are not in great demand among networks of car thieves, and secondly, because a senior police officer in charge of a major prison is bound to have a lot of enemies.

Josefa murder: two sentenced to 24 years

The Sofala Provincial Court, sitting in the city of Beira, on 30 January sentenced two men to 24 year jail terms for the murder of Josefa Ibraimo, head of the treasury department on the Provincial Finance Directorate on 17 July 2002.

The two men, Belmiro Lopes, a former official in the treasury department, and Fernando Mutichone, a cashier at the Beira branch of the Bank of Mozambique, were found guilty of both organising the murder and of carrying it out.

The presiding judge Cirilo Pereira, said it had been proved that they shot Ibraimo dead at point blank range, to halt her investigations into the disappearance in 2000 of eight billion meticais ($336,000) from state coffers. Two other accused, Jorge Manuel Anjos and Sergio Macie, were acquitted for lack of evidence of their involvement.

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