Stepping up efforts to help the poorest children access basic rights

Communication, Advocacy, Participation & Partnerships  work in Mozambique

There is compassion in the rural home of Julieta Lavuleque, a 58-year-old widow. She has been looking after her three grandchildren, Rosalina, 13, Angelina, 10, and Arselia, 7, ever since the death of their mother five years ago.

It is a special day as they have visitors at their home, in the rural community of Muatala, some 70 kilometres from the city of Nampula, eight of which are along a dirt track.

Julieta and her two youngest grandchildren sit on a mat on the ground outside their home surrounded by banana trees. They are dressed in new, crisply-pressed capulanas (traditional skirt wraps) and old, faded T-shirts. Grandmother Julieta discreetly signals for Arselia, the youngest, to sit straight; she does so immediately, sitting bolt upright, crossing her legs.

Communication, Advocacy, Participation & Partnerships mozambique
Tadeu Lourenço Sabonete is a child radio reporter in Nampula.
“Orphans are often treated differently. They tend to work while the children with parents are sent to school. All children should be treated equally. We need more compassion” — Tadeu, 13.

Arselia’s large eyes brighten when she is asked if she is looking forward to starting school. “I want to eat the school food,” she says.

Her focus on food is not surprising; Arselia does not take her basic needs for granted. She sleeps on a mat on the dirt floor with her sisters and grandmother inside their tiny mud and stick home, which looks more like a store room for their few possessions of buckets, pots and a basket. A few old clothes hang on a line over the mat where they all sleep. There is no electricity in the area, and the pump at the nearby well broke two years ago, so the grandmother and Angelina fetch water from a river on the way back from the farm, while Arselia plays at a neighbour’s home.

Her grandmother, speaking in the local language Macua, says, “We leave home before the sun rises, and work on the farm until it gets too hot.” They grow peanuts and beans, mainly to eat, and the grandmother sells the little surplus she sometimes has to buy clothes for her grandchildren. They have no toilet.

"Children experiencing poverty are in many cases being deprived in key aspects of their lives, such as education, health, nutrition, water, and protection" — Andrea Rossi, UNICEF.

Efforts are being stepped up to provide more assistance to vulnerable families. UNICEF Senior Social Policy Specialist in Mozambique, Andrea Rossi, points out that children experiencing poverty are in many cases being deprived in key aspects of their lives, such as education, health, nutrition, water, and protection. For this reason, last year, UNICEF supported research not only on monetary poverty, but also on multidimensional poverty like that experienced by Julieta and her grandchildren. “The analysis sheds light on children in Mozambique living in poverty, defined in both monetary and non-monetary terms. It recognizes that a child's experience of deprivation is multi-faceted and overlapping, and identifies that socio-economically disadvantaged groups are the most vulnerable.”

Social Protection is the key area of UNICEF intervention on multidimensional poverty and deprivation. In partnership with the government, more focus is being put on building a social protection system, which will include a new child grant.

Also, last year UNICEF continued its support for training personnel on the district and community child protection committees. The training focuses on case management to help community workers improve the way they identify vulnerable children, refer them to the right services and monitor their well-being. Seven basic areas have been identified for the case management: education, health, nutrition, legal protection, psychosocial support, housing and household economic security.

There are still challenges, points out Jeremias Muanatraca, a UNICEF child protection officer who worked in the northern province of Tete last year. “One of the main challenges is that committee members, who are all volunteers, need support to be more proactive in finding the right service to access in order to resolve a particular problem. Other challenges are associated with low education levels of the community members, particularly when it comes to filling in the necessary forms, as many of them do not read and write.”

But they are making a difference to families living in poverty. For three years, Julieta has benefited from a Direct Social Support Programme (PASD) which means each month she receives 18kg of corn flour, 9kg of rice, 12kg of butter beans, 3kg of sugar, 3 litres of cooking oil, bars of soap, and salt. “It has helped me a lot as before I didn’t have enough food for the children,” she says.

The children also had their births registered during a free government campaign, supported by UNICEF, and next year, following a visit from the community child protection committee, the two youngest children will be able to attend school, like their older sister. A committee member introduced the grandmother to the school council who will provide school books and uniforms for Arselia and Angelina. Despite being 10 years old, Angelina has never been able to attend school. Like her sister, she is also excited. “I want to play with friends at school,”