MAF Partner Ambassador Aviation Continues Evacuates More Than 500 Refugees In Mozambique

MAF partner Ambassador Aviation continues evacuates more than 500 refugees in Mozambique – with thousands still trapped in Cabo Delgato district.

The terror attacks in northeast Mozambique, which began on 24 March 2021, have prompted tens of thousands to flee the Cabo Delgato district, triggering a joint emergency response effort from humanitarian aid agencies. Among them, MAF partner Ambassador Aviation has rescued nearly more than 500 local refugees.

Recent news reports have criticised the response for ‘prioritising white workers for evacuation’, leaving thousands of local people still awaiting rescue in vast queues. According to the Guardian, 20,000 Mozambiquans are still trapped near the Palma gas plant weeks after the attack.

Since 31 March, MAF partner Ambassador Aviation has conducted 92 flight legs to and from Afungi Airstrip a few miles from Palma, rescuing 567 local people, including children, the elderly, sick and injured people, and one pregnant woman in distress.

One passenger and eyewitness who runs a children’s nursery in Palma, told MAF that the attack began right outside his property and gunfire shook the building. The man fled into the bush and hid there for 15 days before he was rescued by Ambassador Aviation’s Cessna Caravan aircraft. Following his ordeal, the man is very grateful for the evacuation flight to Pemba, where a makeshift refugee camp is housing thousands of displaced people.

In addition to evacuating refugees, Ambassador Aviation has also transported almost 10,000kg of relief cargo and technical equipment including medical supplies, fresh water, mosquito nets, and food rations as well as cables, power supplies, and repair equipment to restore damaged communication infrastructure.

On 19 May, MAF’s Disaster Response Operations Specialist Jill Holmes joined an evacuation flight from Afungi Airstrip to Pemba, where women, children and elderly people were waiting to be rescued.

Jill says,

One older woman struggled to stand, and was carried to the plane. Another had her foot wrapped in cloth and was limping slowly. A lady passed her baby to her four-year-old child and tried to carry the injured woman on her back before a local aid worker stepped in to help. I loaded their bags weighing 10kg each at the most – most likely containing all the possessions these people had after fleeing their homes. It is difficult to imagine leaving everything and heading for the unknown.

Although the flight was only an hour, just getting on a plane was completely foreign to these passengers. But the flight was probably the least scary thing they had done in recent weeks. These people have fled violence, left their homes, and now face a completely uncertain future.

The violence in Cabo Delgado began on 24 March, when around 100 militants reportedly raided the town of Palma – the location of a multibillion-dollar natural gas project owned by the French energy giant ‘Total’. The violence has been described by the BBC as ‘one of the biggest’ extremist attacks in the region since militants launched their insurgency in 2017. The March attacks destroyed Palma’s hospital, banks, and the state prosecutor’s office, displacing nearly 28,000 people – 44% of them are children.

With at least 1,500 refugees having been turned away from neighbouring Tanzania since the recent Palma attacks, the United Nations voiced concern at a press briefing in Geneva on 18 May saying the situation is ‘particularly desperate for single mothers with no family or support’.

MAF has increased its capacity in May 2021 by securing an additional aircraft and pilot from partner Mercy Air in South Africa, as the need for evacuation flights, food, medical supplies, and other relief continues.

Written By: Jo Lamb

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