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Mocímboa refugees dying of diarrhoea, while town lives in fear of police

Diarrhoea is an increasing problem for those who have fled Mocimboa da Praia, while those who return to the town often find themselves in conflict with the police

At least five people have died from diarrhoea after fleeing the violence in Mocímboa da Praia last month, with a lack of sanitation facilities leading to fears that the outbreak will get worse.

The deaths occurred in Nkomangano, a settlement to the north of the town of Mocímboa da Praia, on the Indian Ocean coast. Many people fled there, according to a source who returned to Mocímboa da Praia last week, and who told Zitamar that a lack of toilet facilities in Nkomangano means people are defecating wherever they need to.

Another source in Mocímboa da Praia said diarrhoea has spread to Nhonge Island, an island close to Mocímboa da Praia and parallel with the Ulo peninsula, but there have been no deaths there. To the south of Mocímboa da Praia, however, there have been four deaths from diarrhoea in Quiterajo, Macomia district, and another four on the island of Quilhanhane, off the Macomia coast, according to a resident in that area of Macomia.

Mocímboa da Praia itself is still littered with bodies, according to people who are tentatively returning to the town. The numbers of people killed or abducted are not known for sure, but sources in the town have now counted at least 40 dead, mostly civilians.

A source in the neighbourhood of Nanduadua said many bodies were found there and in the neighbourhood of 30 de Junho after the withdrawal of the insurgents, four days after the initial attack on 27 June. Those neighbourhoods, where the population is mostly Christian, may have been targeted by the Muslim insurgents in retaliation for Muslim neighbourhoods having been targeted by government security forces in the days running up to the attack, sources in Mocímboa told Zitamar.

Fifteen bodies are still lying in fields near the River Quinhevo, of a total of 26, who locals say were killed by police just before the 27 June attack. Some of the bodies were buried on Friday 26 June, but insurgents attacked the town a day later and since then, people have been too scared to return to the area to bury the remaining bodies, according to one source who arrived in Pemba from Mocímboa da Praia yesterday, and plans to head to Nampula.. The source said the 26 were killed by police “without a plausible motive”.

Reports of abuses by the police and military continue to emanate from Mocímboa da Praia. Small businesses are routinely looted by security forces who then sell the goods at a knock-down rate on the street, according to other sources in the town.

Anyone with money can therefore buy a lot with it — but carrying money is also dangerous, as police stop people and demand money when they can’t produce identity documents, the source heading to Nampula said — adding that if you’re found with more than 2,000mt ($29), they not only take the money but also suspect you of involvement with the insurgency. “You might not live,” the source said.

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