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Basic services still absent as IDPs return to Palma and Mocímboa — report

People displaced by the violent conflict in northern Mozambique being escorted home to Mocimboa da Praia by Rwandan police

Basic public services and amenities are still lacking in Palma and Mocímboa da Praia despite the return of over 150,000 civilians, according to a report published this week by the Observatório do Meio Rural (OMR).

District authorities report that 78,000 people are living in Palma — more than were there when the insurgency started in 2017 — while almost 87,000 have moved back to Mocímboa da Praia, amounting to approximately 70% of its 2017 population. However, many of those who returned found their homes had been destroyed and are now left to sleep on floors, mats or tents, the report found.

Health services are struggling to keep up with the growing population. Four of the eight health centres in Mocímboa da Praia were destroyed by insurgent attacks in 2020 and have not yet been restored. There were 75 hospital beds prior to the attacks, now there are just 19, with some patients being forced to share beds at peak times. In Palma, 90% of health staff have returned but the number of hospital beds is still insufficient.

The education system is also a long way from full recovery. In Mocímboa da Praia, only 38% of schools have reopened; in Palma, 60%. These statistics also mirror the percentage of teachers that have returned in each town. Classrooms are also suffering from a lack of textbooks, notebooks, chalk and other basic resources.

Economic life, on the other hand, is looking increasingly healthy. Rice, maize, beans and cassava are once again growing along the coast. Markets are full of activity and Palma “has surpassed the pre conflict dynamism, both in number of stalls and in variety and quantity of products,” the report said.

However, this economic development has been uneven. OMR concluded that the concentration on agriculture has disproportionately benefited “people of the interior”, namely Makondes, Christians and supporters of the ruling party, while fishing has been neglected, to the detriment of the largely Mwani and Muslim coastal population.

OMR observed that basic state functions are still lacking, which has led to the emergence of what the report calls “Totaland”, as TotalEnergies has been left to restore much of the infrastructure. The report’s author João Feijó draws a parallel between Total and the colonial Niassa Company which effectively governed much of Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces during Portuguese rule.

News article produced by Zitamar under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and Mediafax. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.