UNHCR assists thousands fleeing armed group violence in northern Mozambique


The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has voiced deep concern over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the restive Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique following a recent surge in violence and attacks by armed groups. 

More than 70,000 people have fled their homes for southern districts since the start of the latest outbreak at the beginning of February, the agency said on Friday. 

In one district alone, Chiure, over 56,000 people have been affected while more than 33,000 have crossed into neighbouring Nampula province. 

The majority of the displaced are women, many of them pregnant, as well as people with disabilities and the elderly. More than half are children. 

Homes and schools destroyed 

UNHCR said the violence has been marked by extensive destruction of residential areas, schools, health centres and other religious and community facilities. 

“This rampant destruction has further exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Mozambique, where over 709,000 people remain internally displaced due to violence perpetrated by non-State armed groups and the impact of the climate crisis,” the agency said. 

Northern Mozambique has been plagued by insecurity since 2017, when jihadist militants began carrying out deadly attacks on civilians. Troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 16-member regional bloc, have been assisting the army since July 2021. 

The latest unrest is occurring as a French oil company aims to re-start a long delayed $20 billion liquified natural gas project in Cabo Delgado, according to media reports. 

Supporting displaced families 

Affected families have sought refuge in displacement sites and host communities in Nampula province, where some 8,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are also being hosted in the Maratane refugee camp. 

UNHCR and partners are providing relief items to the new arrivals, including blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, jerrycans, buckets, solar lamps, kitchen sets and plastic sheets. 

They will screen and register people with specific needs for support and assistance. Plans are also underway for additional support in areas such as water and sanitation, general protection, shelter, food security, health and nutrition, however, lack of funding is hampering response. 

UNHCR is seeking $49 million for its operations in Mozambique this year. 

The agency, which has been in the country since the 1980s, underlined its commitment to continue to work closely with local authorities, humanitarian partners and host communities to address the urgent needs of displaced people in Cabo Delgado.  

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