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DEVELOPMENT-MOZAMBIQUE: An MDG Temperature Check Gives Mixed Results

Christi van der Westhuizen

GENEVA, Jun 30 2007 (IPS) - Only about 30 percent of Mozambicans think that their quality of life has improved since 2000, the year when the international community agreed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), while about 42 percent believe life has not changed.

This emerged in a study conducted by the Mozambique Non-Governmental Organisations Survey Consortium, a group of Mozambican non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which decided to investigate public perceptions of development as defined by the MDGs.

The NGOs include the Mozambican Debt Group and G20, an alliance of 20 organisations involved in the fight against poverty. They were supported by the North-South Institute, a Canada-based development research body.

Researchers interviewed the heads of 6,750 households in rural and urban areas in the Southern African country in October 2006, asking them how they and their families experienced life between 2000 and 2005. The interviews were aimed at getting a sense of whether progress was made towards achieving the MDGs.

Those Mozambicans who said that life had improved gave more conducive agricultural conditions as the reason. Those who said that life was the same cited unemployment as the main reason for lack of improvement. Some 13 percent of the sample said the Mozambican government should do more to better the lives of citizens.

“People have the feeling that the government attaches more importance to business than to the lives of people. The government has done a lot for business,” said Fernando Menete, secretary of the Mozambican Debt Group, one of the participating NGOs. Those surveyed wanted improved social assistance, education and more hospitals, among others.

Menete presented the findings of the survey at the Civil Society Development Forum, an international three-day meeting of NGOs hosted in Geneva, Switzerland, by the Conference of Non-governmental Organisations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO) and the United Nations Millennium Campaign. The meeting ended Saturday.

The survey question about quality of life covered the first MDG which refers to the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Regarding the second MDG on primary education, participants in the survey described the situation as worse than before, despite statistics that show more Mozambican children have entered primary schools, Menete said.

The problem of lack of primary schooling was especially acute in the rural areas. “Rural people have low levels of education. They drop out of school because they think they will get a job even if they have not gone to school. They do not understand that they can get a better job if they go to school,” he explained.

The picture was even more dismal when it came to the third of the MDGs, which talks about achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. Survey participants reported having noticed no difference in their lives when it came to the power relations between women and men. This was the same for the urban and rural areas, said Menete.

People’s perceptions corresponded with research data showing that Mozambican men still have far more opportunities than women. Women are occupied with farming or pregnancy, said Menete. A pervasive problem is that of teenage girls becoming pregnant. These factors make it very difficult for Mozambique to reach the third goal.

The country fared better with the fourth goal on reducing child mortality because of the strides made with extending vaccination services. But here a huge gap was noticeable between urban and rural regions, where people still have to travel long distances for health services. Many continue to go to traditional healers, said Menete.

Participants in the survey reported no change with regard to goal five, on improving maternal health. Again the situation was worse in rural areas, because of the inaccessibility of health services. According to Menete, the chances of reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters by 2015, the MDGs deadline, are remote.

Combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, as per goal six, continued apace. But despite more information being available on HIV/AIDS, behaviour did not change. With malaria, the survey found problems with access to malaria treatment and prevention methods.

Regarding goal seven on environmental sustainability, people reported improved sanitation. Participants expressed concern about climate change in the survey.

Researchers in Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are interested in replicating the survey, said John Foster, principal researcher on development and global governance at the North-South Institute. This is something that will be explored, but the costs will make it difficult. Therefore smaller studies may be considered.

During a session at the meeting on whether the glass is half full or half empty at the halfway mark to 2015, a speaker from Sudan said that the glass is not even 10 percent full. Poverty has increased in southern and western Sudan, she said. Mothers cannot send their children to school because of the school fees of 20 dollars per year.

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