More than 530,000 people have been displaced armed gangs waging attacks in Mozambique’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado region, the UN Refugee Agency said on Friday.UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said the UN agency is deeply concerned over the rising number of civilians displaced in the northern parts of Mozambique as attacks by non-state armed groups continue to rage in Cabo Delgado province.
“More than 530,000 people are now displaced in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa provinces – according to official estimates as numbers continue to increase daily,” Baloch said in a statement.
He said attacks by the armed groups have increased significantly during the last few days in Palma, Nangade and Macomia districts, resulting in several people being “forced to move multiple times, and the situation of those affected by the conflict is worsening rapidly.”
“The majority of the affected families have sought refuge in the safer southern districts of Cabo Delgado province where around 90 percent of those displaced are sheltered by host communities,” the official said.
He described the situation in Cabo Delgado as “a protection crisis” and expressed concern at widespread reports of human rights abuses and disregard for international humanitarian law.
“People have been forced to flee their homes with few possessions, in most cases without their identification and civil documents, further increasing their vulnerability.
“Some women and girls have been abducted, forced into marriages, (and) in some cases raped, or subjected to other forms of sexual violence,” Baloch said.
More than 2,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in 2017.
Houses have been looted and burned during the violence, with families separated and health centres and schools seriously damaged.
Access to agricultural land has been blocked and other economic activities curtailed.
UNHCR is part of an inter-agency response reflected in a humanitarian appeal for US$254 million launched by the UN system in Mozambique on Friday to provide urgently needed assistance and protection to people affected by violence, conflict and insecurity in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces of Mozambique in 2021.