Mozambique’s Humanitarian Aid Criticized by Pope Francis

On a recent trip to Mozambique, Pope Francis pointed out the rampant corruption plaguing the country, which is considered the worst in the region; he criticized its government and how foreign aid has kept them in power. He called it “paradoxical,” as Mozambique is rich in arable land and minerals, yet half its population lives in poverty. Pope France later added that rich countries are suppressing the developing world through debt. This begs the question of the aid debate: whether or not aid has a positive effect on developing countries.   

Mozambique remains in crisis, as the devastation following Cyclones Idai and Kenneth brought widespread flooding, wreaking havoc on crops and displacing tens of thousands of families. Organisations currently hold a vital role in relieving food insecurity. UNICEF Representative in Mozambique, Marcouigi Corsi said, “Many children in disaster-affected areas do not have access to the nutritious food they need for their healthy development. Six months on, the prospect of further suffering is very real…” Farmers have been reported to faint on the fields due to nothing to eat but tomato soup; 10 per cent of the population is in dire need of food assistance with UNICEF estimating 38,000 children could become severely malnourished by early 2020. Doing nothing isn’t an option as the situation is the first of its kind, with two strong tropical cyclones hitting East Africa in the same season. With the ongoing effects of climate change, cyclones are expected to increase in intensity, placing the developing world in a helpless position.   

Humanitarian groups face a dilemma: Mozambique’s corrupt government remains incompetent, dysfunctional, and removed from its reconstruction efforts. Foreign aid indirectly supports its government maintaining an oppressive regime, because aid takes out any accountability for local authorities and breeds corruption. A report by Transparency International highlights the reliance of Mozambique on international assistance, with a quarter of public expenditure financed from overseas sources. The extent of corruption is getting worse, resulting in its citizens no longer trusting public intuitions with one in four Mozambicans having to bribe government officials for access to services in the past year.

Despite Mozambique’s issues, education and health aid are extremely beneficial for the people. With UNICEF treating almost 10,000 malnourished children with supplements and screened more than 735,000 young children for acute malnutrition. Furthermore, widespread vaccination programmes have promoted healthy human development with Deputy Representative, Michel Le Pechoux stating “Children under-five and pregnant women are facing dangerous health and nutrition risks following the devastating back-to-back cyclones in Mozambique.”

Aid is necessary for containing the crisis, providing necessities for communities to re-establish themselves, although huge challenges lay ahead rebuilding basic infrastructure and addressing the extremely complex situation of combatting corruption. Pope Francis’s announcement helps recognise one of the many factors hindering progress in the developing world and the unintended consequences that foreign aid has keeping corrupt governments in power.

Jonno McPike