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Renewed attacks cause acute need in Mozambique

11.07.2022

After signs of calming down, several violent riots occurred again in the province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique in the last few days. Barbara Kruspan, Country Director in Mozambique, describes the dramatic situation and how SolidarMed is supporting on the ground.

"It's a human tragedy."

Barbara Kruspan, Country Director in Mozambique

Barbara, can you describe the current situation in Cabo Delgado?

Unfortunately, violent attacks are the order of the day in the Ancuabe district at the moment. Just last night there was an attack on a village. We don't know yet how many people are affected and if people died, but houses were burnt down. People live in simple huts that burn quickly. Such incidents are unfortunately very common at the moment. Not every day - but every other day. Until recently, these attacks were limited to the Ancuabe region, but now the unrest has spilled over into the Chiúre district.

The violent attacks by criminal groups since 2017 triggered refugee flows to the southern and already distressed districts of Ancuabe and Chiúre. The red triangles mark health centres run by SolidarMed. The blue triangles refer to resettlement villages located in SolidarMed's catchment area.

What are the renewed attacks about?

What are the renewed attacks about? It is believed that the people perpetrating the attacks belong to splinter groups and are relatively small. They are not targeted attacks, but are about spreading terror and insecurity in the villages. People are attacked and robbed. At the moment, it is still unclear whether these are the same attackers who previously rampaged through the north. However, it is assumed that some of them come from the areas south of Cabo Delgado province and are now migrating back. For the time being, however, this is only conjecture.  Furthermore, the insecure situation has led to an increase in the general crime rate. Robberies are being committed by poor people who are taking advantage of the situation. They have no connection to the terrorist groups. For example, a goat is stolen from the neighbour or the meagre harvest from the fields that were cultivated at short notice. You have to imagine that the people are desperately poor and have no work. There has not been enough rain. People can barely survive. These side effects are an expression of the struggle for survival that the people here face.

What are the renewed attacks about? It is believed that the people perpetrating the attacks belong to splinter groups and are relatively small. They are not targeted attacks, but are about spreading terror and insecurity in the villages. People are attacked and robbed. At the moment, it is still unclear whether these are the same attackers who previously rampaged through the north. However, it is assumed that some of them come from the areas south of Cabo Delgado province and are now migrating back. For the time being, however, this is only conjecture.

Furthermore, the insecure situation has led to an increase in the general crime rate. Robberies are being committed by poor people who are taking advantage of the situation. They have no connection to the terrorist groups. For example, a goat is stolen from the neighbour or the poor harvest from the fields that were cultivated at short notice. You have to imagine that the people are desperately poor and have no work. There has not been enough rain. People can barely survive. These side effects are an expression of the struggle for survival that the people here face.

Since the beginning of the attacks, many resettlement villages have sprung up in the south of Cabo Delgado province. People live in small spaces - often cut off from medical care. Access to clean water is often non-existent.

The proportion of pregnant women and small children among the refugees is particularly high. They are often cut off from medical care in the remote resettlement villages.

Mobile health teams supported by SolidarMed provide care to refugees in particularly remote resettlement villages.

There are now over 700,000 internally displaced people in Mozambique - many of whom were seeking refuge in the southern districts of Ancuabe and Chiúre and live in simple resettlement villages. Now this region is also affected by terrorist attacks.

How are the people who have sought shelter in the south of Cabo Delgado?

Many people have just fled to the southern districts of Ancuabe and Chiúre and felt safe here. We have supported many of these refugees with the UVONA project. Now this security is once again being called into question, roads are being blocked and attacks on villages are being carried out. Many people are still traumatised and now have to flee again. The organisation Save the Children estimates that once again over 50,000 children and adults have been forced to flee. Most of them can only take what they have with them. Once again they lose everything they have. It must be terrible. Some people have now fled to the city of Pemba. But many of them do not know where they are. It is a human tragedy.

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How do the SolidarMed projects in Cabo Delgado continue in this situation?

The importance of the triage project is once again increased by the situation. Triage is currently being applied in the Chiúre hospital and three other health facilities. The project aims to ensure that people in life-threatening situations receive rapid care. Now the pressure on these centres is increasing because there are even more people who need care. The importance of good triage is therefore even more essential. 

We can support the refugees directly with our UVONA project. This is being carried out in Chiúre. From next week, we will also support mobile clinics in Pemba. Because so many people have fled from Ancuabe to Pemba, the health centres here are reaching their limits. There is a lack of medical staff in particular, but also of consumables such as syringes or catheters. 

We cannot work in Ancuabe at the moment - the situation there is too tense. There have also been uncertain moments in Chiúre. Not all roads are passable and unsafe areas have to be avoided. We continue to observe how the situation is developing and constantly adapt our behaviour.

«For us it is important to continue to be active where possible and thus also to show: "We stand side by side".»

Barbara Kruspan, Country Director Mozambique

How do you actually keep yourself informed about what is happening on the ground?

Together with Helvetas, we have a security advisor. She is well informed and has connections to the military and the UN. But you also find out pretty quickly when something happens through NGO networks, working groups and informally from colleagues. Of course, one has to be careful because some of the information is not yet confirmed. Spreading untruths is punished by the government. The law is very strict in this respect.

 

What are the circumstances in the resettlement villages? Is there a risk of disease outbreaks?

The danger of contracting malaria is now always present. The disease is already endemic. There are too few mosquito nets in the villages. The fact that very many people live in a small area exacerbates the situation. And then there is the problem with water. Because of the drought, water is very scarce and there is not enough for everyone. The fact that people are constantly on the move makes it difficult to build a long-term solution. In addition to these supply issues, there are social problems. It is believed that domestic violence has increased because men drink and become violent in their misery. In addition, the number of child pregnancies has increased and there are more girls who are married off because their parents can no longer support them. To make matters worse, pregnant women are cut off from health centres and give birth without medical assistance. There are no statistics on this yet, but the number of preventable deaths has most likely increased as a result.  

Waiting times in health centres are often long. In many health facilities in Mozambique, patients are treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Simple colour system with great effect: Patients receive a colour card upon arrival at the health centre, depending on the urgency. In this way, patients in life-threatening situations are treated more quickly and have a better chance of survival than before. Here, a staff member at the Chiúre Health Centre explains the principle of the colour cards.

Thanks to the tuk-tuk ambulance service introduced by SolidarMed, patients are transported free of charge to the hospital or nearest health centre in an emergency.

The increasing number of patients has an impact on the need for consumables and skilled staff. But the demand for cleanliness is also increasing to prevent the spread of germs.

Has the need for help thus increased as a result of the attacks?

Yes, actually it has. The projects are planned for a certain number of people. Now suddenly many more people have to be cared for. Of course, more funds are then needed. That is why all our projects are affected. Not only are there more consumables and skilled workers, there is also more waste and the demand for cleanliness increases so that germs do not spread. This is particularly serious because there is almost no water at the moment.  

For us it is important to continue to be active where possible and thus also to show: "We stand side by side". Especially now, when other organisations have withdrawn. No one should put themselves in danger, but we are trying to alleviate the need and get through this crisis together. I think that is very important.

(The conversation took place on 24.06.2022). 


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