UN Chief Says Investments Save Millions from HIV

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with local media during his visit to Maputo, Mozambique.

Agency of Information in Mozambique

During a visit to Maputo in Mozambique this week, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Ban Ki-moon said that investments in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis have saved millions of lives.

Secretary Ban was speaking at a roundtable event, “The Future We Want – Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Post-2015 and Agenda 2025.” The occasion was promoted by the Foundation for Community Development (FDC in Portuguese) headed by Graça Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The UN chief, who was taking his first visit to Mozambique, held talks with Mozambican government officials, including President Armando Emilio Guebuza. He also visited Sansão Muthemba Secondary School in Polana Caniço and spoke about the UN’S anti-gender violence campaign, “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women.”

During the roundtable, Secretary Ban stated that Mozambicans have much to be proud of because of 20 years of peace, progress, and development.

“Here in Mozambique, most children are getting early schooling,” Secretary Ban said. “Women are becoming empowered as never before. Nearly 40 percent of parliamentarians and 30 percent of Mozambique’s ministers and vice-ministers are female. You have doubled the number of children who live beyond the age of five. You are improving access to water and sanitation. Around the world, wherever we look, the MDGs have brought success.” Though he added, “But not complete success.”

According to Secretary Ban, the MDGs are a pledge – a global promise – to help countries like Mozambique drastically cut poverty and hunger, reduce vulnerability, empower women and girls, and improve the health of people and the environment.

He mentioned that there are fewer than 1,000 days to go before the end of 2015. Fewer than 1,000 days of action. “We must focus on where we are falling short and accelerate momentum,” Secretary Ban said. “In Mozambique, despite your successes, more than half the population is below the national poverty line. More than 40 percent of children are stunted or undernourished. Half of all women cannot read. HIV/AIDS is still a major challenge. And too many women still die needlessly in childbirth. But you know your challenges. You and the government are acting on them, and the UN is proud to work alongside you.”

During his visit, the UN chief congratulated the National Human Rights Commission. Secretary Ban recalled that the Universal Periodic Review of Mozambique two years ago highlighted several human rights concerns, including arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings, access to justice, and conditions in places of detention.

In addition, Secretary Ban pointed to gender-based violence as a major problem, but credited Mozambique for addressing the issue. “Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic,” he said. “I call it a pandemic because it is a disease that is killing our societies from within. We must change attitudes and behavior… I commend the government of Mozambique for acknowledging the problem and acting on it. Your family law addresses domestic violence, the rights of widows, and property rights. You are training police and medical professionals to provide better care for victims.”

Another stop on Secretary Ban’s tour of Mozambique was the Instituto Superior de Relações Internacionais (ISRI), a high school in Maputo. Speaking to the audience, he said that education for women can help prevent the spread of killer diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

“We must put a priority on education for girls,” Secretary Ban said. “This is the key to empowering them to realize their dreams and fulfill Mozambique’s full potential.” He added that he was thrilled to be speaking at the school, saying “This is where your future is taking shape. This is where you are training young women and men to go out into the government, and out across the country, the continent, and the world. This is where they learn how to put skills to work for the common good.”

At a visit to the Sansão Muthemba secondary school, Secretary Ban highlighted the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign to raise public knowledge and increase political will and resources  to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.

To Secretary Ban Ki-moon, all of humanity shares a common home. Poverty anywhere diminishes possibilities everywhere. Greenhouse gas emissions from one country elevate the risks for all countries. The food, fuel and financial crises of recent years have spread quickly across borders.

“We are in this together,” Secretary Ban said.  “And so our common destination must be sustainable development for all. The foundation (for sustainable development) rests on three pillars: economic growth, social justice, (and) environmental protection. Mozambicans are excited about recent resource discoveries. I encourage you to keep working to strengthen governance and take the other steps that will ensure this wealth is widely shared.”

Arsenio Manhice is Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer for the Foundation, based in Mozambique.