So, it occured to me in talking to a few people, that perhaps before I go any further in my blogging, I should inform you about the state of the country. For many reasons including legal and safety we weren't allowed to take pictures outside of the gates of Zimpeto, so unfortunately I can't even let pictures explain their situation, not that they could do it justice, but it would probably be better than me trying to write about it. Either way, here goes:
Mozambique is located in the SE corner of Africa right next to South Africa. It's about twice the size of California. They gained independence from Portugal (explaining why their official language is Portuguese) in 1975 and has been a peaceful country after a long civil war ending in 1995. Around 21 million people call it home. It has topped the world's poorest country list for years. We were in their capital city of Maputo. About 1/4-1/3 of the population had a very small hand built brick houses with tin held on by rocks or tires for a roof. The remaining housing structures were fashioned out of bundles of twigs in a small square and a tin roof held on with rocks. Let me reinforce that this is the capital city where 2 million live-about 3,000 live on the trash dump alone. Running water and electricity are valuable commodities and few and far between. There is a 90% unemployment rate in the city of Maputo. The main income source is agriculture, but cycles of floods and droughts along with leftover landmines from the civil war leave little farmable land. The literacy rate is 48%. Primary school up until 7th grade is mandatory, but most do not attend because their family situation requires them to take care of the younger children at home or help the family earn income. Also, education costs to attend, and food takes precedence. There were many boys in the center who where 18-22 years old and still had several more years left to finish before graduating high school. 44% of the population is under 14 with only 3% over 65. Life expectancy is 37 years and the HIV/AIDS rate is 12% alothough after being there, access to healthcare is very little, so this number strikes me as probably very low. 58% of those were women, in a culture where women provide all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare, this is devestational. The infant mortality rate is 11%. They have one of the lowest doctor and nurse per person ratios in the world. There were 1.6 million orphans in Mozambique in 2006. Religion: 24% Catholic, 18% Muslim, 18% Zionist (African version of Christianity), 11% non-catholic Christian, and the remaining claim no religion or an african non-christian religion.
Iris Ministries has planted over 5000 churches and is caring for around 3000 children, since starting in Mozambique in 1995. Most of their care is in Mozambique, following with South Africa and spreading to 25 countries. Most of the centers are filled with boys because this culture uses girls in the home for all the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, ect. If at all possible the girls are kept. Also, according to cultural tradition, if a man remarries, any male children the new wife has are kicked out of the home (no matter the age) and into the streets.
Despite all the obstacles they face, the Mozambicans remain a resiliant, loving people who are currently experiencing a revival of sorts led by the work done through Iris.
Posted by erin at 08:41