Mozambicans uprooted by a jihadist insurgency have the potential to become radicalised themselves if they lack basic essentials and root causes of the conflict are not addressed, United Nations officials warned on Friday.
Islamic State-linked militants have in the past year escalated attacks in Mozambique’s northernmost province Cabo Delgado, murdering villagers, fighting the army and seizing towns.
Beheadings have been a hallmark of attacks.
The number of people fleeing their homes swelled from 70 000 to about 700 000 over the last year, said Raouf Mazou, the UN refugee agency’s assistant high commissioner for operations.
Many initially made their way south to the well-protected provincial capital of Pemba to live, often in cramped conditions, with host families.
The government has started moving people to resettlement sites outside the city, Gillian Triggs, the UN refugee agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, told reporters at a briefing alongside Mazou.
Following a camp visit, Mazou and Triggs said more funding and planning was needed to cover food, medicines and education.
Triggs said the site they visited was hard to access via road and close to a swamp, leaving residents worried about snakes, lacking electricity and with minimal healthcare.
“Where (young people) do not have services, where they do not have access to quality education or opportunities for livelihoods, for jobs, for the future, then I think radicalisation is always an option,” she said.
Though there are reports of foreign fighters in the insurgency, the conflict is rooted in local issues from poverty and unemployment to perceived corruption and religious discrimination.
“Individuals we saw in the camp were angry,” Mazou said, noting their desire for more international help.