In the last month, international lenders delayed debt relief to Mozambique because they considered it did not have a good enough strategy to reduce poverty. "This is scandalous," says Oxfam policy director Justin Forsyth. "Delaying debt relief was a terrible judgement, one that will hurt the poor people of Mozambique."
Mozambique - now reeling from consecutive floods and cyclones which have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and endangered - already spends more on its foreign debt repayments than it spends on primary health care and primary education combined.
"Any more delay on debt relief to Mozambique would be shameful. Mozambique was an African success story, but the floods will send it back years. It is economic illiteracy to expect Mozambique to get onto the road to recovery while it is burdened by such debt," Forsyth says.
Oxfam notes that even if international lenders were to push the delayed debt initiative through, Mozambique would still be spending more than $60m a year in debt payments. This compares to its budget of just $20m for primary health care, and $32m for primary education.
"Mozambique is a country where one in every five children is dead by the age of five. It ranks in the bottom eight of the most educationally deprived countries in the world. At a time when the British people are likely to give as generously as they traditionally do to others in crisis, they should look to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other debtors, such as Russia, Italy and France, and say 'Do your part too'."
For further information, please contact Ian Bray in the Oxfam media unit on 01865-312498 or 311311.
Oxfam's country representative for Mozambique, Kate Horne, has today been distributing "family kits" of clothes, food, soap and pans to displaced people now existing in two camps in Gaza province, an area that has been one of the worst hit. "In the city, people whose houses have been washed away or flooded out have gathered in school buildings, mainly in groups of 100-200, they have nothing," Horne says. "The real risk is from an outbreak of cholera or malaria, which is what we will be trying to prevent in the next week or two."
Oxfam has flown its first planeload of emergency supplies out from Manston International airport in Kent today (Feb 23). It is expected to be in Maputo, Mozambique by 3:30am GMT tomorrow.