Impact of environmental degradation and emergencies on children in Mozambique ā€“ Part 2

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MAPUTO, Mozambique, 13 May 2011 – This is the second of three articles about the impact of environmental degradation and emergencies on children in Mozambique. The focus of this article is on human or commercially driven environmental factors.

A 2009 study by the French AFD found that pollution is taking a significant toll on the country’s environment, health and economy. The health effects of polluted water supplies alone were estimated to have cost nearly 3 per cent of GDP in 2008, while those of indoor air pollution (mainly from the carbon monoxide released by burning fossil fuels) cost an additional 1 per cent. In 2008, only 10 per cent of the population was connected to the electricity network. This has a double environmental impact: first, it increases air pollution through cooking with fossil fuels, and second, it increases the use of natural resources for firewood.

Polluted marine environments and overexploitation of fisheries have become an increasing problem in many coastal areas for the communities that depend on the diminishing stock of fish for their livelihood. The Government’s Poverty Reduction Plan (PARPA II) explicitly noted the economic importance of the fisheries and acknowledged that overfishing, pollution and habitat degradation are diminishing the ability of coastal communities to maintain their livelihoods. The plan identified several actions for promoting environmental sustainability while increasing economic productivity.

According to the forthcoming 2010 ‘Child Poverty and Disparities Study’ carried out by UNICEF Mozambique, commercial logging has increased dramatically, and often illegally, in recent years. Some analysts estimate that tropical hardwoods from slow-growing, semi-arid and dry tropical forests are being depleted at a rate that could see resources exhausted in 5-10 years. One 2006 study written by a researcher concludes that “Asian timber buyers, local business people and members of the Government and their forest services are colluding to strip precious tropical hardwoods”, with large quantities of illegal, unprocessed hardwoods being exported through Nacala port in northern Mozambique. The same study estimates that illegal logging is at least as large in scale as legal logging.

Almost half of Africa’s forest loss is a result of people chopping trees for firewood or charcoal, which is the main fuel source for an estimated 80 per cent of the population of Mozambique and is expected to have an even greater effect on deforestation than commercial logging. Deforestation may lead to children missing school as more time is needed daily to collect cooking fuel.

A rights-based approach may be effective in combating deforestation in Mozambique. When individual and community rights over a particular area are recognized and enforced, people may act to safeguard some of its conservation value. A rights-based approach is necessary not just for sustainable conservation, but also for accountability and equitable economic returns in the forest sector.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: