Mozambique – progress on sexual and reproductive health despite overwhelming odds

In a sea of conservatism, Mozambique stands out as a liberal haven for progressive policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It is a land of forward-thinking politics but suffers from shortcomings in implementation of the same. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 180 out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index. It has a very high population growth rate, recording a 40% growth rate between 2007 and 2017, with 65% of the current population under the age of 25. It also has a 50% illiteracy rate and almost 7 out of 10 women are illiterate.

Mozambique is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters as seen with the recent cyclone. An estimated 850.000 to 1 million people are at risk of food insecurity at any given time and population displacement is widespread in the North of the country. This insecurity is compounded by the high rates of violence experienced by certain communities and, in particular, Mozambican women.  

Despite the challenges of this setting, Mozambique is one of very few countries in Africa that includes distribution of contraceptives as part of state-sponsored sexuality education for young people.

Gaza Province has one of the highest rates of HIV.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Mozambique is well on its way to meeting its commitments to FP2020, a global community working together to expand access to contraceptives. One of the most significant goals set by the government is to have sexual and reproductive health counselling corners (providing information, testing and access to contraceptives) in all secondary schools. They are currently covering half of the schools across the country.

But the continued progress of this great work is threatened by budget cuts to civil society organisations. With the reinstatement and subsequent expansion of the US’ Global Gag Rule (GGR), work on sexual and reproductive health has stalled. The GGR has terrible consequences for the health and lives of families in the Global South, and Mozambique is just one of the countries experiencing this strain.  

Now, with the growing populist backlash to women’s reproductive safety in Europe, global development faces threats from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The financial and political commitments of top European donor countries towards SRH and family planning (FP) remain strong and civil society continues to fight to keep this trend going.

It is worth looking at how development aid contributes to the health and wellbeing of some of the world’s most vulnerable women and girls, and discuss what is at stake when access to reproductive health care is denied.

We speak a lot about ‘leaving no one behind’. What we mean to say is ‘push no one behind’ notes Andrea Marie Wojnar, UNFPA Representative in Mozambique. ‘Push no one behind’ reflects better the reality – “if you don’t take up a case, a cause, you have just made a political decision to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots”.

Main Photo: Maputo city. Population 1.2 million people.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Article by Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Read the next blog in our series about family planning in Mozambique.