Prolonged violence in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique is now escalating. During a daily briefing on April 8th, United Nations Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that the U.N. and its partners are following new reports of violations against civilians in northern Mozambique “with deep concern.” The U.N. is especially concerned about civilians who had to flee and who have remained in the city of Palma, Dujarric said.
Mozambique has seen violence since October 2018, but the Assessment Capacities Project (A.C.A.P.S.) reports that the most recent attack was on March 24th, 2021, when a non-state armed group launched an attack on Palma City, in the province of Cabo Delgado. “Clashes between the group and military forces continued for a week,” A.C.A.P.S. says. Furthermore, the project reports, “roads are not safe, with the armed group reportedly targeting civilians … as a result, around 23,000 more civilians are thought to be displaced inside Palma district or waiting for evacuation.”
“They ran into the bush to save their lives and walked all day and night for four or five days,” one displaced person told aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières. The group has been providing medical aid in Montepuez since November 2020 and announced on April 2nd that it is preparing for the arrival of more people fleeing the violence in Palma.
“There were already approximately 350,000 children displaced by the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado – even before Palma,” Marixie Mercado, a spokesperson from U.N.I.C.E.F. Geneva, said. “There’s a cholera outbreak underway. COVID-19 is spreading. People here have dealt with one shock after another – including cyclones and extreme weather events, since 2019.”
Mercado stressed the devastation the ongoing crisis has brought down on Mozambique’s vulnerable. “UNICEF’s appeal to everyone is: don’t forget Cabo Delgado’s children.”
The attacks in Palma continue to affect populations which have fled violence in other areas of the Cabo Delgado region. U.N. News reports that the attacks have internally displaced around 670,000 people in Niassa, Nampula, and Cabo Delgado provinces. This includes 160,000 women and adolescent girls, 19,000 of which are pregnant. The most recent violence has brought an additional 12,800 people to the Nangade, Mueda, Montepuez, and Pemba regions. 43% of these people are children.
The number of internally displaced people in Niassa, Nampula, and Cabo Delgado has increased from 90,000 to over 500,000 in the last year, A.C.A.P.S. says. Furthermore, due to worsening security in the region, the World Food Program has mentioned struggling to deliver food assistance to Palma. The program also warned about rising hunger in the city.
The rising number of internally displaced people and the escalation of violence highlight the urgent need to increase resources for humanitarian aid programs. In his statement on the 8th, Dujarric brought some attention to how the climate emergencies humanitarian community was forced to respond to Mozambique’s extreme weather events, constraining available resources for those fleeing the violence in Cabo Delgado. The spokesperson urgently called for more resources to be made available so the needs of the displaced can be met. “The United Nations calls on all parties to the conflict in Cabo Delgado to protect civilians,” Dujarric said.
Innocent civilians should not have to bear the brunt of conflict. The urgent need for humanitarian aid should be addressed immediately to protect civilian lives.