Health and safety in Mozambique

Health

In Mozambique there are private clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in most large towns, but unless you speak Portuguese you may have difficulty communicating your needs beyond relatively straightforward requests such as a malaria test – try to find somebody bilingual to visit the hospital with you.

Consultation fees and laboratory tests are remarkably inexpensive when compared with those in Western countries so, if you do fall ill, it would be absurd to let financial considerations dissuade you from seeking medical help.

You should be able to buy such commonly required medicines as broad-spectrum antibiotics and metronidazole (Flagyl) in any sizeable town. If you are wandering off the beaten track, it might be worth carrying the obvious with you. As for malaria tablets, whether for prophylaxis or treatment, you would be wise to get them before you go as not all tablets are available readily.

Preparations

Sensible preparation will go a long way to ensuring your trip goes smoothly. Particularly for first-time visitors to Africa, this includes a visit to a travel clinic at least eight weeks in advance of your trip to discuss matters such as vaccinations and malaria prevention.

  • Don’t travel without good quality, comprehensive medical travel insurance that covers the activities you intend to pursue, is adequate for your health needs and will fly you home in an emergency.
  • Make sure all your routine vaccine courses and boosters are up to date. In the UK this includes measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and polio (DTP). Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is needed for entry into Mozambique for everyone aged one and above if you are coming from a yellow fever endemic area including if you have a transit time of 12 hours or more.
  • Most travellers will be advised to be vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A. Vaccination against hepatitis B and rabies may also be recommended. Cholera vaccine is usually only recommended during outbreaks and if there is little or no guarantee of clean water.
  • The biggest health threat is malaria. There is no vaccine against this mosquito-borne disease, but a variety of preventative drugs is available, including atovaquone/progunail (Malarone), doxycycline and sometimes mefloquine (Lariam). The most suitable choice of drug varies depending on the individual and the country they are visiting, so visit your GP or a travel clinic for medical advice.

Safety

Theft and violence

Bearing in mind that no country in the world is totally free of crime, and that tourists to so-called developing nations are always conspicuously wealthy targets, Mozambique is a relatively low-risk country so far as crime is concerned. Compared with parts of Kenya and South Africa, mugging is rare and the sort of con tricks that abound in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam even rarer.

Petty theft such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching can be a risk in busy markets and other crowded places, but on a scale that should prompt caution rather than paranoia. Walking around large towns at night feels safe enough, though it would be tempting fate to wander alone along unlit streets or to carry large sums of money or valuables.

Women travellers

Women travellers generally regard subequatorial Africa as one of the safest places to travel alone anywhere in the world. Mozambique in particular poses few if any risks specific to female travellers.

It is reasonable to expect a fair bit of flirting and the odd direct proposition, especially if you mingle in local bars, but a firm ‘no’ should be enough to defuse any potential situation. To be fair to Mozambican men, you can expect the same sort of thing in any country, and – probably with a far greater degree of persistence – from many male travellers.

Perhaps as a result of Frelimo’s feminist leanings, Mozambican women tend to dress and behave far less conservatively than their counterparts in neighbouring countries. You will often see evidently ‘respectable’ women drinking in bars and smoking on the street, behaviour that is seen as the preserve of males and prostitutes in many other parts of East and southern Africa.

As for dress codes, Muslims in Mozambique seem far less orthodox than in some other African countries, but overly revealing clothes will undoubtedly attract the attention of males.

LGBTQ+ travellers

Unlike some of its neighbouring African countries, homosexuality is legal in Mozambique. As of June 2015, Mozambique became the 12th African country to decriminalise homosexuality, although same-sex marriages are not recognised.

As such, while it is legal, that isn’t to say that the overall attitude towards homosexuality has changed, but travellers are unlikely to encounter any problems. The Mozambique Association for Sexual Minority Rights has been active in the country (albeit unregistered) since 2006. For more information and details of social events, visit their Facebook page.

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