Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Wednesday warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in Mozambique unless urgent action is taken to address the needs of more than 400,000 people who have fled an armed insurgency in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province.The charity’s head of mission for Mozambique, Alain Kassa said his organisation is concerned about the continued violence and deteriorating conditions in Cabo Delgado “and the quickly growing number of displaced people, especially with the onset of the rainy season”.
“The basic needs of the displaced people remain largely unmet despite existing efforts to provide humanitarian assistance,” Kassa said in a statement, warning that the situation could rapidly deteriorate “if no immediate action is taken”.
“MSF calls upon the Mozambican authorities for support to mobilize additional humanitarian staff and supplies without delay.”
MSF project coordinator in Cabo Delgrado province Joaquim Guinart said the majority of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are facing serious health risks and inadequate living conditions after fleeing fighting between government forces and members of a terror group allegedly linked to the Islamic State.
“There have been cases of severe, potentially fatal, diarrhoea. There is a lot of pressure on local medical staff as 20,000 people have arrived throughout the last month and more will continue to come,” Guinart said.
He revealed that approximately 10,000 displaced persons arrived in the provincial capital Pemba by boat last week alone.
“They were dehydrated. Women gave birth at sea.”
The IDPs have sought refuge in and around Pemba in temporary shelter sites such as school buildings or with host families, increasing the city’s population by a third.
Guinart said most of the displaced persons lacked clean drinking water and are exposed to malaria with barely any protection, while they remain in unsanitary, crowded conditions, increasing the risk of an outbreak of measles, diarrhoea or COVID-19.
Due to the fighting that started in October 2017 and has increased in intensity in recent months, it is estimated that more than 20 local health facilities have been destroyed during the conflict.
The charity was forced to suspend its medical humanitarian activities in Mocimboa da Praia in March, followed by Macomia in May following attacks by the insurgents.
“We have relocated our base to the city of Pemba, where we have been providing medical assistance to arriving IDPs and the host community,” the official said.
He said the charity was struggling to continue with its activities in Cabo Delgado due to administrative constraints and COVID-19 travel restrictions, “which forces us to work with minimal capacity while needs continue to grow exponentially.”