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Mozambique - Introduction

Mozambique is a constitutional democracy with an estimated population of 23 million. Mozambique has been piecing itself together since the end of its civil war 21 years ago. Since then, it has held several elections and adopted a constitution. Frelimo has dominated Mozambican politics since independence from Portugal in 1975. The economy received a boost with the discovery of massive repositories of liquefied natural gas.Supporters of the ruling party say Mozambicans want the peace they currently enjoy maintained. They accused the opposition of threatening to embark on a conflict, which they said could plunge the country into chaos and instability.

Mozambique has a total land area of about 784,090 sq km (302,737 sq mi), slightly less than twice the size of California, and is divided by the Zambezi River into two geographic areas. North of the Zambezi River, the narrow coastline yields to hills and low plateaus, which give rise to rugged highlands in the west. South of the Zambezi River, the coastal plain extends almost the entire width of the country. The Gorongosa Highlands and the Lebombo Mountains are prominent geographic features in southern Mozambique. Mozambique's highest peak, Mount Binga, on the border with Zimbabwe, has an elevation of 2,436 meters (7,992 ft) above sea level.

Mozambique has a tropical climate with two main seasons, wet (November through March) and dry (April through October). During the oppressively hot, humid wet season, the mean daily temperature is about 28C (82F), with daytime highs exceeding 38C (100F) in interior low-lying valleys. During the dry season, mean daily temperatures are about 8C (15F) cooler. Annual rainfall varies greatly by region. Along the central coast, mean annual rainfall is about 1,420 mm (56 in), varying from 610 to 1,220 mm (24 to 48 in) in the rest of the country. The wet season also produces tropical cyclones in the Mozambique Channel and adjacent areas. Dust storms are common during the dry season.

Mozambique has experienced catastrophic weather conditions from drought to numerous tropical cyclones. In early 2000, three tropical cyclones devastated Mozambique's infrastructure, leading to a disaster declaration. Because of forecasted El Nino-related weather patterns, as well as Mozambique's vast coastal lowlands, additional severe flooding can be expected.

The key environmental contamination issues in Mozambique include the pollution of water with raw sewage, industrial wastes, and pesticides. The growth of industry, rapid urbanization, lack of sanitation infrastructure, and recurring natural disasters all contribute to this contamination. Microbial contamination of food in Mozambique is common and poses a significant risk for acute gastrointestinal illness. Contamination of food with fecal pathogens may result from use of fertilizers derived from human or animal waste, unsanitary food preparation techniques, and improper handling of prepared food products. Even one-time exposure to fecal contamination in food may cause a variety of acute enteric infections. Malaria is endemic, and malaria prophylaxis and mosquito bite precautions are strongly recommended year round. HIV and TB are also endemic.

One of the greatest personal safety threats is motor vehicles. Drivers must exercise extreme caution when near any road or motor vehicle traffic. Driving is often a challenging and dangerous activity. Maputo's streets are narrow, crowded, and in constant disrepair despite recent road improvement projects. The lack of street lights, stop lights/signs, sidewalks, and guardrails, combined with potholes and unpaved road surfaces, increases the risk of injury/death for drivers/pedestrians. Local drivers may exhibit little consideration for pedestrians, other motorists right-of-way, and general safe driving practices. Motorbikes weave in/out of traffic, will drive on any flat surface of the road, and rarely adhere to rules. Drivers and pedestrians should be aware of their surroundings and take extra care at night.

Taxi cabs, motorbikes, and the ubiquitous mini-van transports (chapas) present a hazard because they are poorly maintained, crowded, and drive erratically. These conveyances should be given a wide berth, and their usage is strongly discouraged.

During the rainy season, mud, deep puddles, flooding, glare from oncoming headlights, and occasional near-zero visibility present an even greater challenge. Roads and bridges, especially outside of Maputo, frequently wash out during the rainy season. Depending upon the destination, several hours of travel time may be added to a trip. During the dry season, dusty conditions can also impair visibility.

The abundance of weapons remaining from the country's civil war and the lack of well-trained, equipped, and motivated law enforcement officers all contribute to a serious crime situation. Additionally, several hundred thousand mines were planted throughout Mozambique during 3 decades of conflict. Although mine clearing operations are underway, surface travel off main highways should be approached with caution.





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