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Mozambique gets unprecedented Irish aid

Mozambique is among seven of the world’s poorest countries to benefit from the largest Irish Aid payout of €37million from up to €623m.The latest aid, will this year be donated through Irish Aid, APA can confirm.

Mozambique became one of the world’s poorest nations after a million people were killed during a brutal 16-year civil war which ravaged the east African country until a peace deal was reached in 1992.

The economy, hospitals, schools and infrastructure were destroyed, while thousands of landmines are still being cleared from the countryside.

Floods recently devastated parts of the country, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Minister Joe Costello who has just visited Mozambique revealed that despite the tightening of purse strings in households and by government, the Irish people still want to give generously to others less well off.

“If we look at the population of Mozambique, 50 percent survive, they don’t live they survive, on less than half a dollar a day,” said the Dublin official.

“In terms of poverty there’s no comparison. It’s the same with other countries we’re involved in. They’re chosen because they are among the seven poorest in the world.

“We still have hundreds of millions of people who go to bed hungry, there’s still huge numbers of infant and maternal mortality, there are people dying from HIV and Aids and there’s huge catastrophes taking place” he said.

Ireland was last year forced to defend its oversees aid budget after €4million was siphoned off in Uganda where officials colluded in a “sophisticated and elaborate fraud”.

Tougher measures were put in place because of the scandal, which was linked to staff from the prime minister’s office, the finance department, including the treasury, and the Bank of Uganda.

But Costello maintained the controversy was a good example of how practices, regulations and training put in place by Irish Aid works as the country’s own auditor general spotted the fraud traced to the office of Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who denied any knowledge of missing money.

“That indicated there was no fear or favour in relation to the highest authority in the country,” Mr Costello added.

During a recent two-week visit to South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique, Costello said he saw how firsthand donations are being spent and was satisfied money is being used effectively in dealing with humanitarian crisis, like famine and drought, to putting preventable measures in place.

“Particularly the emphasis on nutrition and hunger, where there’s that legacy that comes to bear from the times of the famine to the present,” added the minister of state for trade and development.

But with Africa dubbed one of the economies to watch in the next decade, plans are in place to increase trade between Ireland and Mozambique, which is on the cusp of a resource boom.

An estimated 4,000 people work for Irish companies in Mozambique, including Kenmare Resources which recently posted record profits.

For now the Irish taxpayer is still battling in the fight against HIV/Aids and other killer diseases, while money is also ploughed in to long-term projects including training civil servants, supporting small businesses like a coconut oil plant, and getting communities and organisations to make political leaders accountable.

Grants were given to the Mozambique branch of WLSA (Woman and Law in Southern Africa) as they lobbied and campaigned until domestic violence laws were changed in 2009.

“It was a great victory,” said co-ordinator Terezinha de Silva, whose group now aims to train judges, prosecutors, forensic officers and doctors on how to implement the tough legislation.

Elsewhere the ritual of putting young boys and girls through grueling initiation rites will be uncovered in a documentary funded by Irish taxpayers through the embassy in Maputo.

Huge amounts are also being spent in agriculture, where the humble spud is helping the fight against child deaths in Africa.

Varieties of potato and sweet potato from around the world are being bred and developed by the International Potato Centre (known as CIP) to grow in areas plagued by drought to give life-saving nutrition to mothers and their infants.

Ireland, which was devastated with a great famine when our own potato crop failed, is donating €1.7m over the next four years to roll out the programme that could reach up to 100,000 people in the poverty stricken Niassa province.

But in the small village of Manhala in the Inhambane province a group of women were supported in setting up a credit union style village savings and loans club, where strict rules include members being fined for using a mobile phone during meetings.

Grandmother Angelina Jose, 48, used the interest from her savings to build a new clay and straw hut while short-term loans give her the money needed to make the seven hour trip to Maputo to sell coconuts.

“It has changed my life a lot because on my own I couldn’t have built this house,” she added.

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