The World Food Programme (WFP) is assisting over 50 000 people affected by deadly violence in Palma, a town in Mozambique’s troubled Cabo Delgado province, according to the UN agency.
“It’s a real humanitarian catastrophe. People are heading all over by boat, on foot and by road,” Lola Castro, WFP Southern Africa regional director, said.
WFP is distributing emergency food packages to support people wherever they are and working with UNICEF to supply a “desperate population” with drinking water.
Cabo Delgado province has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Mozambique, with more than half of children malnourished and now thousands are now going into even deeper food insecurity.
“The situation is bad and it’s affecting neighbouring provinces. We don’t have enough resources to support the scale-up needed,” she said.
The conflict has hammered northern Mozambique since 2017, when non-state armed groups attacked police stations in Mocimboa da Praia. Throughout 2019, the country reeled from the impact of two cyclones. In 2020 violence escalated and the number of displaced people multiplied.
“At the start of 2020, there were 18 000 people displaced — by December it grew to 500 000 people,” Castro said.
In February the figure reached 670 000, with 80000 currently inaccessible because of violence.
“It’s a serious situation. We are talking about desperate people who haven’t been able to plan for three consecutive years, others recently displaced, who don’t have food, water or shelter. A huge humanitarian tragedy is unfolding,” according to Castro.
“Displaced people make efforts to reach family members elsewhere, in host communities they know, some find shelter in government resettlement centres,” she adds.
WFP reported in October, following a previous exodus: “Some flee to the bush, surviving by drinking river water and eating what they find along the way, only to return and find their homes burnt to the ground, forcing them south to provincial capital Pemba and beyond. Others, fearing attacks on coastal villages, pack into boats to sail southwards, going for days without food or water.”
According to the latest figures, 950 000 people in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces Niassa and Nampula are food insecure.