GENEVA – U.N. agencies warn northern Mozambique is facing a long-lasting humanitarian and protection crisis as conflict, hunger and disease grip hundreds of thousands of people in the region.
People are still fleeing in droves from the impact of the violence that erupted in northern Mozambique’s coastal town of Palma. Many of the thousands of people who have fled to Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, tell stories of the horrific attacks by Islamist militants, who reportedly killed dozens of people and committed other atrocities.
Speaking on a video link from Pemba, director of emergencies for the U.N. children’s fund Manuel Fontaine says people relate how they have had to flee in the middle of the night. They speak in sorrow of families being separated while running for their lives.
“I heard about this young woman who was pregnant and… her husband was just killed in front of her. And these are constant stories. Stories of people being kidnapped and stories of gender-based violence, horrific stories of lots of people walking for days and days, kids arriving with their feet swollen and injured and having to be taken care of,” he said.
UNICEF says malnutrition rates among displaced children in Cabo Delgado are alarmingly high, with at least 33,000 in need of lifesaving specialized nutritional feeding. It says cholera and COVID-19 are of growing concern.
The agency has appealed for $52.8 million for Mozambique this year, $30 million of that amount targeted for Cabo Delgado. It says only 37 percent of the appeal is funded and international support for its humanitarian operation is urgently needed.
In a separate appeal, the World Food Program is seeking $82 million to ramp up food aid in northern Mozambique. WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says in the wake of the heinous attacks in Palma, families and individuals have had to abandon their homes, their belongings and livelihoods to flee for safety.
“WFP teams on the ground have spoken to these families that are on the move — their stories illustrate horrific violence and deepening despair… As the security situation continues to deteriorate, more than 950,000 people in the north of Mozambique are now facing severe hunger,” he said.
Phiri say the WFP plans to assist 750,000 internally displaced people and vulnerable members of the host communities in Cabo Delgado and three other northern provinces. He says WFP is organizing emergency food distribution for families who have fled the violence in Palma.