In Mozambique, Poverty Takes Toll On The Young

Originally published on May 26, 2011 5:43 pm
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


Hello, Melissa.


Hey, Michele.

NORRIS: Where exactly are you right now?

BLOCK: And think about these numbers, Michele. This is a country where about one in seven children will not reach the age of 5, where the lifetime risk of maternal death for a woman is one in 45. And if you consider that 82 percent of the population here lives on less than $2 a day, I think you start to get a sense of the conditions here and just what those challenges are that these women face.

NORRIS: Steep challenges, indeed. Tell us about some of the stories that you've seen, some of the people that you've met.

BLOCK: Well, let's set the scene, Michele, with a little bit of music that we gathered here.

U: (Singing in foreign language)

BLOCK: So one of the stories that we've been reporting on is about programs here that are trying to prevent the transmission of HIV between those mothers and their babies using antiretroviral drugs and education. If the drugs are used properly, they say they can reduce the risk of transmission to the baby to virtually zero.

SIEGEL: The drugs are free, but there are frequent shortages in the drug supply. And so instead of getting a one-month supply of pills, maybe a woman gets only a week's worth. And then she needs to go back to the clinic or hospital. And I cannot emphasize enough just how hard that can be, how impossible that can seem in remote areas where these facilities are many, many miles away from the villages. And people have absolutely no means of transportation, except their own two feet.

NORRIS: You mentioned how poor this country is, and Mozambique, more than 80 percent of the population, as you said, living on less than $2 a day. That really does paint a very vivid picture there. That has to also have all kinds of ramifications for the health care system and for women's health in particular.

BLOCK: So we've been looking at some of the ways they're trying to bolster the medical system. For example, this is a country that still has very few doctors, so they've been training nurses to perform emergency obstetrics surgery, things like cesarean section. So they hope to improve outcomes for women that way. And we've also been visiting a number of programs that are engaging with traditional healers or curandeiros and traditional birth attendants, trying to link them with the existing medical system, encourage them to send women to the hospital when they are in trouble rather than treat them in the villages.

NORRIS: Well, we miss you, and we look forward to your return. And we really look forward to hearing some of these stories. Get back safely, Melissa.

BLOCK: OK, Michele. See you next week.

NORRIS: That's our co-host Melissa Block wrapping up a reporting trip in Mozambique for our upcoming series on women and childbirth. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.