Malhangalene United Methodist Church, an inner-city congregation in Maputo, recently partnered with the city municipality to help reduce the number of undocumented national citizens.
The congregation organized a communitywide health fair, inviting people to get identification cards, measure their blood pressure and get medical and exercise advice. The medical team also offered dental care and eye exams.
Gathering at the historical Praca da Paz (Peace Plaza), the event celebrated the peace accord signed Oct. 4, 1992, in Rome that marked the end of a 16-year civil war in Mozambique.
While the number of undocumented citizens in Mozambique is unknown, it is estimated that 15 percent of the country’s 30.8 million people lack official ID documents. These are people born in Mozambique who, because of distance and expenses, grow to adulthood without any documentation. However, when they want to enroll their children in school, get a job or travel, they need identification cards.
“We are glad to see people come to either get their IDs or have a free medical check,” said the Rev. Leonardo Massango, Malhangalene senior pastor. “This act complements (Matthew 4:4, NRSV) that says, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
“Many people do not get IDs or medical checkups for a variety of reasons,” said Mauro Langa, an organizing team member. They may not have the services near their communities, misunderstand why IDs and health care are so important or find medical assistance unaffordable, he noted.
Massango said that in Mozambique, it is very difficult to get an identification card at the beginning of the year. “It is great to see both kids and parents go home with their IDs,” Massango added. “For kids, it will facilitate their enrollment in schools.”
Keith Leonel, 13, for example, traveled 15 miles from Matola Rio to renew his ID. “I am truly grateful and relieved,” he said. “At the end of October, I have to renew my registration at school, and to get the ID renewed is not an easy thing in my community.”
“More than 200 people had new IDs or had them renewed,” said Sandra Madau, a Civil Registry Office employee. “The process was smooth.” She expressed appreciation to the church for its ministry.
Some patients were advised to visit clinics for follow-up, and others received prescriptions.
Anita Guambe, a retiree from the Reserve Bank, was grateful for the exercise instruction. “I recommend that everybody should spare some minutes or even an hour daily to exercise,” she said.
Sambo is the Africa Lusophone correspondent for United Methodist News Service.