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Mozambique: Families Start Seeking Refuge in Transit and Resettlement Centers

By Alex Butler

Over the past several years, the people of Mozambique have been suffering from a variety of factors that are forcing many of them from their homes. From the end of December of 2021 to the beginning of 2022, 1,062 people have moved throughout the country. Within this group of people, 76% have been displaced prior to this with 48% being children and 24% are women.


According to DTM, a majority of these people are moving because of forces beyond their control, whether it be violence or extreme weather events, that have made it impossible to secure food or within their homes. Although many individuals intend to return to their place of origin, this possibility remains obscure as Mozambique struggles to cope with its various disasters.


"Outbreaks of violence caused by these groups have left 3,000 dead and displaced nearly 856,000 people across the country and around have of those being children."

The most pressing factor causing mass displacement in the country is the violence caused by armed groups that are aligning themselves with the Islamic State. Starting in 2017, these groups have been fighting and launching attacks against villages and towns, forcing people to flee for their lives, per MSF. Although they were initially restrained to Cabo Delgado, a coastal area of Mozambique rich in natural gas reserves, they have since managed to spread into the neighboring province Niassa.


The conflict reached a new peak in 2021, further displacing thousands. For the most part, first-time displacements were caused by instability in the Nangade and Mueda districts, which together represent 99% of the new displacements according to ReliefWeb. By the end of November 2021, around 734,000 people were estimated to be internally displaced, reports OCHA.


Outbreaks of violence caused by these groups have left over 3,000 dead and displaced nearly 856,000 people across the country and around half of those displaced being children. Civilians have suffered from killings, rapes, forced marriages, abductions, recruitment of child soldiers, looting, and pillaging. As such outbreaks of violence are unpredictable, many have to leave with only the clothes on their backs.


Families have sought refuge in transit and resettlement centers. MSF reports that such centers are currently hosting hundreds of thousands of people, a majority of which have been displaced for a year or longer.


People typically have to travel far to reach these centers. They arrive in weakened and vulnerable states as they could only eat what they found along the way. Malnutrition and anemia are common. Doctors Without Borders points out that aside from physical complications, nearly all who have been displaced suffer from psychological stress and trauma.


Many have been separated from friends and family. There are many cases of orphaned children whose parents are dead or kidnapped, and parents who have lost track of their children.


Mozambique's government has been slow to respond. Unwilling to admit to the extent of the problem, VOA reports that they denied the spread of violence and insisted that their interventions had been successful and that the armed groups would soon be overrun, despite evidence pointing to the contrary. However, in recent months, the government has been forced to admit that the groups have spread.


Mozambique armies, along with assistance from allied countries in the region, have launched offensives to regain control of the areas where people have fled from. While these campaigns have caused non-state armed groups to disperse, there are still frequent outbreaks of violence that civilians must continue to run from.


Aside from the violence ongoing in the country, natural disasters have also contributed to a large number of displacements. Cyclone Idai of March 2019 and severe floods that spanned between December of 2019 to February of 2020 forced many families from their homes. 52% of those displaced by these events are children, and 5% are elderly, representing one of the most vulnerable groups. A majority of those displaced are located in the Sofala and Manica provinces.


According to a survey done by the DTM, shelter is the most urgent need for those displaced. Food is the second most important, and healthcare is the third. Families who lost their homes in these weather events were put into resettlement sites by the government. Yet not all the sites are built equally. Many are inaccessible without a boat or 4x4 vehicle, are without adequate protection and have no access to a market or healthcare on site.


Some sites have no functional latrines, bathing spaces, or handwashing stations. Nearly the entire population of these sites cannot read or write. In sites where schools are present, many of them are nonfunctional or limited in their capacities.


Overall, the most pressing issue in Mozambique is food shortages, which further increases a displaced persons vulnerability. According to the World Food Program, the combination of manmade conflict, climate change, and the COVID pandemic has worsened hunger risks. The lack of funding for the humanitarian crisis has limited the aid the agency has been trying to provide.


As of November of 2021, 1.11 million people in Mozambique are considered severely food insecure and 470,000 children within the country suffer from acute malnutrition. OCHA reports that 9 in every 10 displaced families do not have an adequate diet.


OCHA predicts that the start of the lean season will cause even more people, particularly in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa, to face high levels of food insecurity. The leading causes of this insecurity is the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado, shortage of rainfall, irregular rains, increasing food prices, and the COVID pandemic and its subsequent restrictive measures, per ReliefWeb. The start of the rainy season caused 90% of displaced people to report shelter as their most urgent need, with food following closely behind. Malaria, febrile syndrome, and diarrhea remain significant diseases and health risks across Cabo Delgado and are worsened by the weather and violence.


The people of Mozambique will most likely continue to be displaced unless serious action is taken by their government to address both the internal violence as well as the threats of climate change. Proper refuge sites and relocation services would also help mitigate the issues many are facing. Until then, thousands of displaced individuals will remain in a state of uncertainty as their futures become increasingly threatened.


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