HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE CONFLICT IN NORTHERN MOZAMBIQUE
The ongoing armed conflict, compounded by climatic shocks, recurrent disease outbreaks and deep-rooted poverty, has left over a million people in urgent humanitarian assistance and protection in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula. The rapid escalation of the conflict in northern Mozambique had left, by the end of 2020, nearly 670,000 people internally displaced in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula. Almost 580,000 people were uprooted from their homes in 2020 alone, as the number of attacks by non-state armed groups, including killings, beheadings and kidnappings expanded geographically and increased in intensity. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), more than 570 violent incidents registered from January to December 2020.
In Cabo Delgado, internally displaced people continue to concentrate in the southern and western districts due to security and access to humanitarian assistance. At least 72 per cent of the people displaced in Cabo Delgado are hosted in Pemba (144,467 people), Metuge (114,418), Mueda (66,127), Ancuabe (56,555), and Montepuez (54,008). More than 90 per cent of people who fled the conflict are staying with family and friends in host communities. However, the situation is putting immense strain on the already meagre resources of host communities.
Nearly 840,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula were facing severe hunger by the end of the year, as the conflict and repeated displacement have interrupted communities’ agricultural activities, destroyed livelihoods and disrupted markets. Insecurity has driven up the cost of essential commodities, with food prices reportedly skyrocketing in many parts of Cabo Delgado, especially in areas particularly affected by the conflict, including Palma District, Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia. In addition, two out of every five children in the Province are chronically malnourished and more cases of severe acute malnutrition are being detected amongst the displaced population, according to UNICEF. Across the country, an estimated 2.7 million people faced high levels of acute food insecurity in rural (1.9 million people) and urban areas (0.8 million) between October and December 2020, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report.
Cholera cases are increasing in Cabo Delgado, especially amongst displaced people, amidst severe disruption of health, water, sanitation and hygiene services. Insecurity has damaged or destroyed 36 per cent of health facilities across the Province and, by the end of 2020, there were no functional clinics in the districts hardest-hit by conflict (Mocimboa da Praia, Macomia, Muidumbe and Quissanga). This exacerbates the acute lack of access to clean water across Cabo Delgado, increasing the risk of diseases, including cholera and COVID-19, and hampers Government and humanitarians’ capacity to provide critical care, such as sexual and reproductive healthcare, immunization activities, access to antiretrovirals for people living with HIV and treatment for tuberculosis.
The increased number of attacks also impacted humanitarian assistance, despite the growing needs. Access to people affected widely reduced in 2020, especially in the northern districts of Cabo Delgado, and humanitarian organizations faced extraordinary challenges to operate, either due to the insecurity itself, infrastructure or administrative obstacles. Several attacks reported over the last few months on district capitals (Mocimboa da Praia, Quissanga, Muidumbe and Macomia districts) forced many humanitarian actors to temporarily relocate from vital hub locations into the southern districts of Cabo Delgado, reducing their ability to assess and respond to the rising needs. At the same time, transport is particularly difficult throughout the Province, as roads and infrastructure are in poor conditions.
Mozambique continued to report a growing number of new COVID-19 transmissions in the last quarter of 2020. At the end of the year, more than 18,300 people had contracted the virus and more than 160 had died from the disease. The pandemic is stretching the already fragile health system while the country also deals with other endemic disease outbreaks, including malaria, measles and rubella in different parts and cholera in Cabo Delgado.
With limited access to essential services, including healthcare, water, hygiene and protection services, as well as livelihood opportunities, the displaced population are particularly at risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic. The situation is also concerning for the population of the major cities across the country, as access to clean water and appropriate sanitation is a major challenge for most of the 80 per cent of urban dwellers who live in informal settlements. The pandemic had an unprecedented impact on education, with school closures affecting 8.5 million students.
Mozambique continues to experience recurrent climatic shocks, including tropical storms, flooding and back-to-back droughts in the southern part of the country. At the end of 2020, Tropical Storm Chalane made landfall in Muanza District, in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, leaving more than 3,000 people affected. More than 270 families living in settlements for survivors of Cyclone Idai—which hit the same area in March 2019—lost their shelter. In addition, another 2,500 people living in resettlement sites in Sofala need shelter support, after heavy rainfall and strong winds from 25 to 28 November destroyed their homes, according to an assessment conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC).