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Key findings
  • A majority (56%) of Mozambicans say it is “never justified” for parents to use physical force to discipline their children. However, the share of citizens who think this practice is “sometimes” or “always” justified increased from 33% in 2018 to 43%. o The use of physical force is more widely accepted in rural areas (49%) and among citizens who are poor (55%) and those with no formal education (47%).
  • More than half (54%) of respondents say the use of physical force to discipline children is not common in their community.
  • A two-thirds majority (68%) of Mozambicans say that child abuse and neglect are not common in their community. Half (51%) say the same about out-of-school children, though 47% disagree. o Poor citizens are almost twice as likely as well-off respondents to see child abuse and neglect as a common problem in their community (37% vs. 20%), and far more likely to say that children are frequently out of school (55% vs. 36%).
  • A slim majority (54%) say resources to help abused or neglected children are generally available in their community. About half (49%) offer the same assessment regarding children with disability. Only 44% say resources to support children and adults with mental or emotional problems are available in their community, while 41% disagree.
  • Six in 10 Mozambicans (60%) say the government is doing a “fairly bad” or “very bad” job of protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children.

Mozambique stands at No. 185 out of 191 countries in the 2021 Human Development Index, trailing most of the world in health, education, income, and other aspects of well-being (United Nations Development Programme, 2023). Despite strong economic growth between 2000 and 2015, 60% of the population lives in extreme poverty, and more than 3.5 million people face severe food insecurity (World Bank, 2023; ECHO, 2023). Vulnerabilities due to poverty are exacerbated by protracted conflicts in the North of the country, recurrent droughts and cyclones, and disease outbreaks.  

These conditions have dire implications for the country’s children. According to UNICEF (2022, 2023), almost half (46%) of Mozambican children experience multidimensional poverty, and half are stunted due to malnutrition. Conflict in Cabo Delgado Province has displaced more than 1 million people, 80% of them women and children, and nearly 1.4 million children in the country require humanitarian assistance. 

Mozambique’s 2007 Social Protection Law aims to support and protect vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and people with chronic diseases, but is of limited use in protecting children (UNICEF, 2022). While its 2016 National Basic Social Security Strategy II improved social protection for children (Falange & Pellerano, 2016), studies show that Mozambique continues to have some of the world’s lowest scores on indicators specifically relevant to children (Pomati & Nandy, 2019; Mahrt, Rossi, Salvucci, & Tarp, 2020). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ attitudes and perceptions related to child welfare. 

Survey findings show that a majority of Mozambicans oppose the use of physical force to discipline children, but acceptance of the practice has increased compared to 2018. 

Most citizens describe child abuse and neglect as infrequent in their community, though poor respondents are significantly more likely to see them as common problems. Almost half of citizens say out-of-school children are a frequent occurrence. 

Assessments are mixed regarding the availability of support services in the community for abused or neglected children, children with disability, and children and adults with mental or emotional problems. 

Overall, only about one-third of Mozambicans think their government is doing a good job of protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children.

Wallelign S. Hassen

Wallelign S. Hassen is a researcher at the University of Florida.<br />