May 26, 2024

Nearly a million people have fled five years of violence in northern Mozambique.

Nearly a million people have fled five years of violence in northern Mozambique.

Editorial

It has been five years since intense violence erupted in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, causing almost a million people to flee.

Tragically, the conflict has not diminished and thousands of families are still forced to leave their homes due to attacks by non-state armed groups.

Refugee groups are calling for an end to the violence and for the international community to provide sustained support to alleviate the suffering of refugees and local host communities in northern Mozambique.

Extreme violence and displacement have had a devastating effect on the population. People have witnessed their loved ones being killed, beheaded, raped, and their homes and other infrastructure burned to the ground. Men and boys have also been forcibly recruited into armed groups.

Livelihoods have been lost, education halted, and access to basic needs such as food and healthcare cut off. Many went into a state of shock after being moved several times to save their lives. Five years later, the humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado continues to deteriorate, with the number of refugees rising 20% ​​to 946,508 in the first half of this year.

The conflict has now spread to neighboring Nampula province, where four attacks by armed groups in September affected at least 47,000 people and displaced 12,000.

People displaced by recent attacks say they are afraid and hungry. They lack medicine and live in crowded conditions, with four or five families living in one house. Some people sleep under the blue sky. Lack of privacy, cold nights and harsh weather conditions during the day pose additional safety and health concerns, especially for women and children.

Refugee organizations continue to respond to the needs of displaced people in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa by providing humanitarian assistance and protective support. They are providing shelter and household items, assist survivors of gender violence with legal, medical and psychosocial support, and help displaced people obtain legal documents. Refugee organizations also support those most at risk, including children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Despite ongoing displacement in Cabo Delgado, some people have returned to areas they consider safe. Last month, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and its partners carried out the first protection assessment mission in Palma, in the far north-east of the country. Palma witnessed deadly attacks in March 2021, which forced most of the region’s 70,000 residents to flee. The majority have returned in the past few weeks.

People who have lost everything return to areas with little access to humanitarian services or support. UNHCR is concerned about the risks people face if they continue to return to their areas of origin before the situation stabilizes.

The security situation in Cabo Delgado is too unstable to facilitate or encourage return to the province. However, the increased protection needs and limited services for those who have chosen to return to their homes still need to be urgently addressed by stakeholders, including authorities and humanitarian actors.

Refugee organizations work closely with the government and other partners to advocate and support the integration of all displaced populations into national services. As of September 2022, only 60% of the $36.7 million requested by UNHCR to provide life-saving services and assistance in Mozambique had been funded.