Many face hunger as conflict escalates in northern Mozambique

Friday April 30 2021

People wait on the outskirts of the seaport of Pemba on March 30, 2021 for the possible arrival of their families evacuated from the coasts of Afungi and Palma after the attack by armed forces against the city of Palma on March 24, 2021. PHOTO | ALFREDO ZUNIGA | AFP


Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province is in the grips of a spiralling hunger crisis as thousands of people flee their homes amidst violence, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned Thursday in a statement.

Conflict continues to drive hunger in northern Mozambique as more than 950,000 people now face severe hunger. WFP is in the process of scaling up its response in northern Mozambique, with plans to assist 750,000 internally displaced people and vulnerable members of the local community across the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa, and Zambezia.

WFP urgently requires $82 million to respond to the crisis in northern Mozambique and support the vulnerable, largely women and children, the WFP statement added.

Recent attacks in Palma have affected 50,000 people. Many have fled Palma to Pemba on boats.

“Thousands are still trapped in Palma and Quitunda, and WFP is working round the clock to secure access to those most in need. WFP has also been using boats from Pemba to reach those in remote areas, on surrounding coastal islands,” it said in a statement.

Islamic State-linked militants launched attacks on the northeastern coastal town of Palma on March 24, ransacked buildings and beheaded civilians. Thousands of people fled into the surrounding forest. The attack has seen a surge in the number of refugees fleeing the violence in the area.


Known locally as Al-Shabaab – but with no established relation to the Somali group of the same name – the militants in Cabo Delgado have launched a series of brazen raids on towns and villages in an apparent bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.

The attacks began in October 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, then spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade.

Meanwhile, data collected by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that nearly 4,000 people have fled Palma in the past week, pushing the total number of displaced people to almost 25,000.

“This week the IOM contributed $1.2 million to the response,” IOM adds.

Hunger persists and children are worst affected, with malnutrition worryingly on the rise.

“A recent survey by Unicef and WFP found that almost 21 percent of displaced children under 5, and 18 percent of host children are underweight. At the same time, the rates of chronic malnutrition (or ‘stunting’), which has lifelong consequences, are at an alarming 50 percent among displaced children and 41 percent among children from host communities.”