UN warns of rising violence and food insecurity in Mozambique
The United Nations and partners today launched an appeal for US$ 254 million to provide urgently needed assistance and protection to more 1.1 million people affected by violence, conflict and insecurity in the Cabo Delgado area and neighboring provinces of Mozambique.
"The crisis in Cabo Delgado rapidly escalated in 2020, with attacks and fighting forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes every month," said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at a news conference in Geneva. “ Nearly 530,000 people are now internally displaced in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa, almost five times the number registered some nine months ago in March," he said, referencing the northernmost area of the country, in the vicinity of the border with Tanzania, and the neighboring regions to which people have fled.
The crisis in Cabo Delgado province is linked by UN experts to a combination of attacks by Islamist militants and a perceived failure by authorities to distribute some of the vast mineral and offshore gas revenues to the local population.
“People fleeing violence in Cabo Delgado have been exposed to severe violations and abuses and we are especially concerned for the plight of children and women”, the OCHA spokesperson said. “Women and girls are at risk of abduction, gender-based violence and exploitation, while boys are at risk of being killed or recruited by armed groups,” he added.
Conflict and displacement are severely affecting already overstretched essential services. More than 90 per cent of the displaced people are living with relatives or friends, whose already scarce resources are being further strained, OCHA said. Communities hosting displaced people also need support as their exemplary solidarity is reaching a breaking point.
“Many areas hosting displaced people will flood in the upcoming rainy season, we fear. Local authorities and the humanitarian community in Mozambique are working against the clock to set up new settlement areas with adequate conditions to relocate the displaced people, ” Laerke said .
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed "deep concern" over the rising number of civilians displaced in the northern parts of Mozambique as attacks by non-state armed groups continue to rage in Cabo Delgado province.
”During the last few days, attacks conducted by these armed groups have increased significantly in Palma, Nangade and Macomia districts. Many people have been forced to move multiple times, and the situation of those affected by the conflict is worsening rapidly,” UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said today.
UNHCR stressed that the situation represents a "protection crisis" for more than half a million civilians on the run. There are widespread reports of human rights abuses and disregard for international humanitarian law.
UNHCR’s Baloch said that “more than 2,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in 2017. In the violence houses have been looted and burned, families separated and health centres and schools seriously damaged.” He added that “access to agricultural land has been blocked and other economic activities curtailed. There is a serious indication that this crisis could spread beyond the country’s borders if it goes unstopped”.
”The food security situation is quite dire. There are high levels of hunger and malnutrition rates," said the World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Tomson Phiri. "More than 900,000 people in Cabo Delgado, in Niassa as well as in Nampula are now facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity," Phiri said.
With the disruption of markets, food prices are skyrocketing as supply decreases, WFP expressed deepening worries for the most vulnerable groups, including severely and acutely malnourished children, and pregnant or nursing women.
In reference to Cabo Delgado, WFP’s Tomson Phiri said that highlighted that "it has the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in Mozambique with more than half the children malnourished. Without urgent and sustained access and assistance the situation may turn into another major humanitarian disaster”.
The UN agencies and their humanitarian partners said that they counting on the support of the international community to provide timely funding to ensure that the people fleeing violence can access much-needed relief.