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Thousands fleeing conflict and extreme weather in Mozambique, says aid agency

22 July 2022

RICARDO FRANCO/TEARFUND

Ibraimo, aged 49. He and his family fled their home to escape violence, and had to live in the bush for months

Ibraimo, aged 49. He and his family fled their home to escape violence, and had to live in the bush for months

THOUSANDS of people in Mozambique are being forced to move repeatedly in search of safety, as a result of armed conflict and extreme weather, an aid agency reports.

Some families have been made homeless three times, forced out first by ongoing conflict, and then by violent cyclones, and then by food insecurity.

Parts of Mozambique have been devastated by a brutal Islamist insurgency, which has destroyed at least 33 hospitals and health centres, as well as schools and other essential infrastructure, and forced 820,000 people to flee, half of them children. The conflict began in 2017, and, although some areas have been brought back under government control, attacks continue.

Ibraimo, aged 49, his pregnant wife, and two small children escaped the violence, but had to live in the bush for months, surviving on wild fruit and fish. Because of the trauma, his wife went into labour while they were there, but, as soon as she had recovered, the family had to continue on foot for many miles to escape attacks by armed groups.

Edgar Jone, who leads the work of the charity Tearfund in Mozambique, said that, even in areas now held by the government, people did not feel safe.

“People still feel they are not safe, because attacks are happening in some villages. Insurgents are now razing villages in search of food. People are very traumatised: there are children who have seen their parents decapitated in front of them, and parents whose children have been kidnapped.”

He said that Tearfund was working with the Anglican diocese of Nampula to provide psycho-social support for traumatised refugees, including Ibraimo and his family, as well as emergency food and hygiene kits for those who have been displaced.

Save the Children said that nearly 300,000 children fled violence in the Cabo Delgado province last month: the highest number of children uprooted in a single month in the past year.

Mr Jone said: “The problems are piling up and up, and people simply can’t cope. The Covid-19 pandemic raised food prices and caused job losses; the weather is unpredictable and disrupts the normal growing seasons; and the violence brings the extreme distress of leaving home in rushed and fearful circumstances. It’s no wonder nearly two million people in Mozambique are now officially facing severe food insecurity, and that trauma is rife.

“This situation has been ongoing since 2017, but the attention of the world isn’t here but on other crises. We have been unable to fund-raise for those who are suffering.”

The UN said that at least 1.5 million people in northern Mozambique were facing hunger owing to continuing conflict. Drought has worsened the situation, leading to crop failure and the death of livestock.

The country has also been hit by three cyclones since last autumn, which displaced thousands of people from the central belt of the country.

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