Hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to leave their homes by violence in northern Mozambique, in a situation made worse by extreme weather events and the aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Armed groups have been leading a campaign that includes torching villages, beheading people – including children – and kidnapping, forcing almost 820,0001 people to flee their homes in fear.
49-year-old Ibraimo, his pregnant wife, and two small children escaped but had to live in the bush for months, surviving on wild fruit and fish. Because of the trauma, his wife went into labour while they were there, but as soon as she had recovered the family had to continue on foot for many miles to escape the armed groups. Ibraimo lost contact with his pregnant sister, who was also caught up in the fight, and he doesn’t know if she is dead or alive.
As well as coping with ongoing violence, which started in the Cabo Delgado area in 2017, people like Ibraimo are dealing with increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as floods, cyclones, and droughts. And those who have been displaced are particularly vulnerable to small-scale but frequent storms: they often start with inadequate shelter and sanitation and there’s no time to recover and rebuild before the next storm hits.
Edgar Joné, Tearfund’s Country Director for Mozambique, says ‘The problems are piling up and up and people simply can’t cope. The Covid-19 pandemic raised food prices and caused job losses; the weather is unpredictable and disrupts the normal growing seasons, and the violence brings the extreme distress of leaving home in rushed and fearful circumstances. It’s no wonder nearly 2 million people in Mozambique are now officially facing severe food insecurity, and that trauma is rife.’
In his home village, Ibraimo used to fish for an income, make bamboo fish traps and farm some crops, but now he cannot get work and there are sometimes tensions with the local community who are hosting people like him. He says he is very grateful for the house he has been loaned, and for the food and other items he has received from both Tearfund and the government. But he adds: ‘I would like to have my own house, because l cannot be a guest to someone forever, and be able to produce food for my own family.’
Tearfund is launching an appeal for funds for its work with its local partner, the Anglican Diocese of Nampula, helping those displaced and living in host villages or camps. Together they are providing trauma counselling, emergency food and hygiene kits, and practical items such as tents, blankets, and mosquito nets. And to help people feed their families, they are giving seeds, farming tools and agricultural training.
Ruth Tormey, Tearfund’s Head of Church and Supporter Engagement, said: ‘At Tearfund we know many Mozambicans are surviving by the slenderest of margins, and we’re determined to help them overcome the tough times they’re going through. It’s testament to the resilience of Ibraimo and others like him that he said: “I do not know much about tomorrow but I am happy, still alive and healthy and when the war ends we will meet again telling a different story.”‘
To learn more about Tearfund’s appeal for funds for its work in Mozambique, please visit www.tearfund.org/mozambiqueconflict
Written by: Louise Thomas