Only a child: In reality a mother, father and brother
It is just after 6pm, a few raindrops are falling from the dark skies. There is no sign of life in one of the small mud houses, which forms part of a circle a few blocks away from the busy centre of Chokwé in the Gaza Province. A huge lock hangs on the door. A piece of blue plastic forms part of the roof. None of the four orphaned children in this child-headed household are home.
Sixteen-year-old Manuel Muchanga is the head of this family.
A small boy, dressed in a yellow shirt, a light floral hooded jacket and sandals approaches the house and unlocks the door. He peers round the door, as if he is expecting to find someone, he finds no one and turns back. Seven-year-old Armando is the youngest in the family. The other brothers also start to trickle in. The first to show is 11-year-old Jose', then Manuel, the eldest. The boys' mother died from AIDS in April 2015 and their father died a few years earlier.
"Ever since we lost our parents I am a father, mother, brother, sister and uncle. I am everything! When they need school uniforms and material they come to me, when they are hungry they come to me. It is always Manuel we need this, Manuel that," he says.
"Ever since we lost our parents I am a father, mother, brother, sister and uncle. I am everything! When they need school uniforms and material they come to me, when they are hungry they come to me" - 16-year-old Manuel Muchanga.
Manuel, a Grade 9 student, wants to be a nurse, but for now he is a mother, and a father. Besides their neatly made bed, there are a number of pots with some left over food laid tidily in a corner alongside the water buckets.
"The first thing I do is to clean the house and then prepare breakfast for the kids. I also pre-cook lunch for the ones who return home early from school so that they can have something to eat," says Manuel.
Manuel and his brothers are assisted by the government with UNICEF support through a joint social protection programme.
Government research indicates that there was an 11 per cent increase in the number of poor households accessing social protection benefits and a 15 per cent increase in budget allocations to social welfare in 2015 as compared to 2014.
Life may be hard for the boys but they are beneficiaries of the Direct Social Support Programme (PASD), which is run by the National Institute for Social Action (INAS). The programme delivers basic food parcels to the sick, orphans, babies who have lost their parents at birth and the disabled. It also provides mosquito nets, wheel chairs for the people, including children, with disability and cleaning detergents. The Social Support Programme has 1687 beneficiary households in the Gaza province.
"We are grateful for the food we receive, it is easier to prepare, unlike unrefined maize we get from around here, which is hard to grind," says Manuel.
Ana Tuzine, an INAS representative in Chokwe says the number of child-headed homes, like the Muchangas, are growing because many fathers leave for South Africa to work in the mines.
"This is where some men contract the HIV virus, they come back home and transmit it to their wives. Those who are here at home are in polygamous marriages and that on its own might pose a health risk if one of the partner is sick. Women often have no say in the use of condoms," she says.
With more than 2 million orphans and vulnerable children in Mozambique, some become the responsibility of their ailing grandparents. In Mabalene district, 71-year-old Florinda Chivambo and fellow pensioners are huddling under a tree against the drizzle. The rain stops, the wind blows and raindrops fall from the leaves rendering the shelter futile.
Florinda is here to collect her pension, which she depends on to raise her two grandchildren who were left orphaned five years ago when her daughter died. The monthly 620 meticais (US$9.50) grant use to go a long way but the Mabalene district, where Florinda lives, is gripped by drought like the rest of Chokwé.
"The drought has decimated my vegetable garden. I try to budget but with the increase in food prices I cannot even afford maize meal," she says.
The Cash Transfer Programme falls under the National Strategy for Basic Social Security.
"Though the money is little I thank the government because is it better than nothing," she says.
"I try to budget but with the increase in food prices I cannot even afford maize meal. Though the money is little I thank the government because is it better than nothing" - 71-year-old Florinda Chivambo.
Sixty-three-year-old Sylvestre Valoi who has walked 40 kilometres to join the queue nods in agreement. He also supplements his pension with fresh produce from his small farm. He says the money goes a long way to look after his wife and three grandchildren who are in high school.
"I wish the money could increase because I need to pay school fees, buy clothes, books and food but every bit we receive here helps," says Sylvestre.
"I wish the money could increase because I need to pay school fees, buy clothes, books and food but every bit we receive here helps" - 63-year-old Sylvestre Valoi.
- Supported development and expansion of social protection system, led to national Social Protection Strategy endorsed in 2016 (ENSSB II)
- Supported Government to develop 3 subsidies: families with children 0-2 years old, child-headed households and foster families
- Assisted completion of social protection information management system
- Endorsement by the Council of Ministers of the national Strategy to prevent and eliminate Child Marriage (2015)
- Supported integrated case management systems at the community level through additional 141 (total 1140) committees
- Supported design, training and dissemination of the Alternative Care Regulations, endorsed by the Council of Ministers
- National Development Strategy 2015 to 2035 supported, which aims to give 75 per cent of poor and vulnerable households access to basic social security by 2035 (approved 2016)
- Supported design and testing of new digital birth and civil registration system and leveraged funds for the roll out of the system in 2016
- Netherlands Government
- Flemish Cooperation
- Netherlands National Committee UNICEF
- Irish AID
- Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
- UK-AID (DFID)
- US Fund