Travel Log: Caring for Moms and Kids in Mozambique


October 27, 2014

When my children are sick, I take them down the street to my pediatrician. It was a little harder when we lived in New York City – that involved a subway and a bus ride, or a taxi, but still, something we could manage within 30 minutes and with small expense.

Artist: Naguib Abdula, installation at National Museum of Art, Maputo, Mozambique

Artist: Naguib Abdula, installation at National Museum of Art, Maputo, Mozambique

For most mothers in Mozambique, when they realize their child is ill, it’s an entirely different matter. Renowned local artist Naguib Abdula, in an exhibit at the National Museum of Art in Maputo, shows us exactly why.

In the Cabo Delgado province there is only one pediatrician for all 1.8 million residents. I walked through the exhibition of ghostly lab coats, absorbing the impact of what that meant for the mothers I will meet as I travel through the country this week.

In Maputo province where the capital is, access is better – roughly 1 pediatrician for every 32,000 residents. Still, when you consider that in the United States each pediatrician treats fewer than 1,000 children, I am overwhelmed. It’s not quite an exact comparison, but staggering to wrap my mind around.

There are many reasons: Mozambique is a new country – the ravages of colonialism combined with a 16-year civil war has meant this country is barely rebuilding. There is finally foreign investment, job creation and cranes dotting the Maputo skyline.  Most buildings haven’t been painted since independence in 1975 but the historic railway station is under a massive restoration.

Contrasts are around every corner as the country balances sophistication and need.  Beautiful batik fabrics fly in the wind against a sky with cranes constructing the latest new development. In a quiet hotel courtyard, a bicycle made of recycled weapons from a national exchange program makes a statement of peace and progress.

bikeoutofweaponsThrough it all, I am thinking about mothers and their children. According to UNICEF, 88 out of every 1,000 Mozambican children don’t make it to their fifth birthdays – that’s almost 9 percent – and one in about every 200 mothers dies in a complication around pregnancy and childbirth. There are many working hard to change these devastating statistics. I’m honored to be able to share some of those solutions with you over the next few days and weeks.

Take Action Challenge

I am in Mozambique with the International Reporting Project (IRP). You can follow the #IRPfellows hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to see latest stories and observations from the whole team. Share this story with a mom you care about and learn more about UNICEF’s work in Mozambique.


Image credits: Chrysula Winegar. Top, exhibition at Mozambique National Museum of Art by Naguib Abdula; middle, batiks and cranes; bottom, bike made from weapons. You can see more images of the Naguib Abdula exhibit here.


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