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Conditions “very serious” for almost 100,000 displaced people in northern Mozambique, aid agencies warn

Overcrowding and lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, and information, is exacerbating the risk of cholera and may lead to accelerated spread," Unicef spokesperson Guy Taylor said.

Displaced people arrive in the Quissanga district of Cabo Delgado province

Almost 100,000 people from Cabo Delgado province forced to flee their homes to escape Islamic State-backed insurgent attacks are at risk of suffering from disease, disrupted education and psychological trauma, according to humanitarian agencies.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Monday that 99,313 people were displaced between 8 February and 3 March, and that more than 61,000 of them were children. Around 45,000 crossed the Lúrio river into Nampula province, arriving in the district of Eráti, while more than 28,000 were spread across displacement sites in Cabo Delgado, according to the IOM.

Conditions facing newly displaced people were “very serious”, Guy Taylor, the Unicef Mozambique spokesperson, told Zitamar News. According to Taylor, there are already active cholera outbreaks in Chiúre and Eráti, and more than 80% of those displaced are women and children.

“Overcrowding and lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, and information, is exacerbating the risk of cholera and may lead to accelerated spread,” Taylor explained. “The need is great and there is a risk that demand will outstrip the limited available supplies.”

Save the Children said 61,000 was the highest number of children uprooted in such a short period in this conflict. 

“This new wave of violence is again an attack on education, with currently more than 100 schools closed across six districts in Cabo Delgado, and an additional 17 schools in Nampula, affecting nearly 71,000 children,” Brechtje van Lith, the director of Save the Children in Mozambique, told Zitamar. Save the Children and partners had spent years trying to get displaced children back into education but now most schools in Chiúre were closed again, she added.

Psychological distress has also been widely reported among the latest wave of displaced people, but mental health and psychosocial support are generally “resource intensive” and underfunded across the board, according to van Lith. 

Displaced people are also facing food shortages. Around 1.2m people were already experiencing acute food insecurity in Cabo Delgado and Nampula prior to the displacement crisis, according to a report by the World Food Programme (WFP) published on 1 March. The WFP defines acute food insecurity as when a person’s inability to get adequate food threatens their life or livelihood.

Zitamar understands that general food distribution in the districts of Chiúre and Quissanga has been suspended due to the threat of attack, but some emergency aid has been delivered to the district headquarters and nearby areas where it is still deemed safe to operate. The WFP reached 5,485 people in Chiúre by 29 February, the report said.

The majority of the approximately 45,000 people who have sought refuge in Eráti are living with host families. Around 500 are sheltering in Nacusha primary school, where women are at risk of sexual abuse and diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, conjunctivitis and typhoid, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Protection Working Group, a network of aid agencies. 

The United Nations-coordinated Mozambique humanitarian response plan for 2024 is currently only 5.5% funded, needing a further $390.7m to meet the estimated needs of communities affected by conflict and natural disasters this year.