Poverty & Healthcare

Main health threat to the young

Mozambicans are threatened by a number of common diseases and illnesses, such as sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, cholera and leprosy. But the greatest threat, particularly to the young, is malaria.

Mother with her children Malaria occurs throughout the year in many parts of Mozambique. It is the leading killer of children, accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths among under fives (World Health Organization, 2009 data).


In 2009, there were over 4.3 million cases (WHO).

The government has been promoting the use of indoor spraying and insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Nets have been distributed to vulnerable people, such as pregnant women and young children. Nearly half of all children are now believed to sleep under treated nets at night. With extra donor funding, the government aims to distribute nets to all Mozambicans.

As well as killing thousands each year, malaria leads to the majority of medical consultations and admittances for children. This places a huge burden on the resources of hospitals and clinics, which struggle to provide adequate services.

  • A view of Matundo suburb, Mozambique
  • Matundo suburb, Mozambique

The growing threat of HIV/AIDS

While malaria mostly affects the very young, HIV/AIDS is becoming a growing problem among teenagers and the adult population. Across the country as a whole, 11.5% of adults (800,000 people aged 15-49) are infected with HIV/AIDS. And the incidence of the disease is rising. Among some high risk groups, more than a quarter of people are infected. The disease is becoming a major threat to Mozambique’s future.

An estimated 670,000 children have lost either one or both parents to HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS 2009 data).

Young women are particularly at risk. HIV/AIDS infections are three times higher among girls aged 15-24, than among boys of the same age. Only 12% of women in Mozambique use contraception and girls are seen as ready to enter into full relationships as soon as they are fertile. Attitudes are hard to change, particularly in some traditional areas. But campaigns about the dangers of early marriage and the protective benefits of condoms are beginning to gain ground.

Widespread poverty

Over 70% of Mozambicans live below the poverty line, surviving on less than 2 dollars each day. This means that for many, life is a daily struggle.

A recent government census of households found that nearly four out of every ten families ate just one meal a day. During the three months before the main harvest began, food intake could be even less.

Malnutrition is a huge problem in Mozambique, with one-fifth of children below the age of five underweight (WHO 2000-2009). Food riots broke out in 2010 when the price of bread rose after subsidies were reduced. Now, the government has changed the subsidy system to target the poorest 2 million. These citizens are eligible for lower-cost food supplies and transport.