Charities warn of stranded refugees in Mozambique

More than 140,000 vulnerable people are stranded and in dire need of help in a violence-wracked province in northern Mozambique, aid agencies say.

Huge numbers of elderly or disabled people “mainly in the coastal districts of Cabo Delgado” cannot be reached with humanitarian aid and want to flee, said Sascha Nlabu of the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

They face obstacles to “movement, access to transportation and finance for transportation,” Nlabu told AFP.

Jihadists in northern Mozambique have stepped up an insurgency aimed at carving out a caliphate in the gas-rich province.

The attacks have claimed more than 2,400 lives, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) group, while at least half a million people have fled their homes, according to the government.

The local charity Caritas also called attention to their plight, and emphasised that those most affected were elderly and disabled people who battled hunger and thirst as they tried to cover long distances to reach aid.

“There are reports of people who lost their children because some were unable to walk 70 kilometres (45 miles),” said Manuel Nota, director of the Caritas Diocesan of Pemba, the provincial capital.

He denounced some local transporters who he said had doubled their prices, making the situation even tougher.

Pemba has swollen from 200,000 inhabitants to 350,000 because of the influx of displaced people, while Metuge, around 45 kilometres (30 miles) away, houses another 20,000 families, local authorities said. 

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are working to provide “shelter and distribution of household items, access to protection, mental help and psychosocial support services,” Nlabu said, adding that “the needs are really significant”.

Cabo Delgado now has around 400,000 displaced people, according to the IOM.

Many families have reportedly started heading further south to neighbouring Nampula and Niassa provinces.