Nearly 1 million people in Mozambique are facing severe hunger in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks in the north of the country, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP).
The attacks on March 29, where Islamist milititants reportedly affiliated with Daesh stormed the northern city of Palma, coupled with the effects of a devastating cyclone in 2019, have led United Nations officials to brand the situation a humanitarian catastrophe “beyond epic proportions.”
“People were running for safety, on foot, boats, and many of them left their belongings,” Shelley Thakrel, spokesperson for WFP Pemba, told Global Citizen. “We have been assisting people since the attack and we have mainly evacuated the most vulnerable, which are mainly women and children.”
According to Thakrel, while evacuations have been stopped due to security reasons, people are still arriving in nearby Pemba in search of food, water, and places to stay. Thakrel confirmed that many people are being placed in safer spaces and others have been staying with family and friends close by until they find where to stay.
“The attacks have been ongoing for a while now. We have been providing assistance to people with food and shelter — we need money and assistance in order to continue providing help to those affected,” Thakrel said.
UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, has reported that more than 11,000 people have left Palma, with thousands arriving in the provincial capital Pemba, where the agency’s teams have received reports of more than 1,000 people being denied asylum in Tanzania, having been rejected at the border.
The recent terror attacks helped fuel an already dire humanitarian crisis that has been made worse by climate change, and has caused hunger and food insecurity in northern Mozambique to reach a tipping point.
WFP told Global Citizen it is working to assist more than 50,000 people that have been affected by the deadly attacks in Palma.
The organisation has appealed to donors for assistance of $82 million in hopes of tackling the crisis in the country. The plea comes after Mozambique's National Institute for Disaster had declared that it will need $126 million in order to provide help to people that have been affected by the recent attacks.
A week after the attacks in Palma, the International Organization for Migration stated that nearly 14,000 people who are victims of the terror attack in Palma have been displaced to places like Montepuez, Nangade, Mueda, and Pemba.
UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes Manuel Fontaine said that the organisation has identified more than 200 children who were separated from their parents. UNICEF said it is currently working on tracing their parents and identifying the children, but it will continue caring for them in the meantime.
Conflict has been worsening in the country since 2017 when armed groups attacked police stations in Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique. The country's food supply was already fragile due to the impact that climate change has had on agriculture. Three cyclones hit the same part of the country over two years which have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced with food insecurity, and a severe drought.
Disclosure: The World Food Programme is a funding partner of Global Citizen.