Mozambique: EU should take ‘decisive’ role in Cabo Delgado crisis – IOM chief

The director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino, a former Portuguese government minister and European commissioner, said on Friday that the European Union should take a “more decisive and important” part in resolving the crisis in the province of Cabo Delgado, in nothern Mozambique, where operations lack resources.

The IOM chief appealed to Portugal as current holder of the presidency of the Council of the EU for “an intervention to support the Mozambican authorities, the United Nations agencies … and the non-governmental organisations working on the ground, because the operation is dramatically underfunded.” 

Vitorino described as “enormous” the needs of people displaced by the violent attacks by jihadists in the province.

“The Portuguese presidency should insist within the European Union for a more decisive and relevant participation of the EU in the resolution of the crisis in Cabo Delgado,” he said, noting that more than 800,000 people had already been displaced there.

Among the main health issues detected by the IOM in the province are a “cholera outbreak” on top of the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, as well as other challenges such as the “need to improve security conditions” so that people can eventually return to the villages and towns from which they fled.

The capacity to provide healthcare, for example, to the thousands of people who have congregated in and around Pemba, the provincial capital, or who are scattered in other localities is not in question, but “to strengthen this capacity, obviously, funding from the international community is needed.”

Also on Friday, the governor of Cabo Delgado, Valige Tauabo, said that the province faced an emergency situation given the humanitarian crisis caused by the armed violence.

“Our province is imminently in an emergency,” he said, during events to mark the end of Ramadan in Pemba. “It is not just some districts, it is the whole province that is in emergency.” 

Tauabo celebrated the feast with people displaced from Palma district, who had fled following an attack by armed groups on 24 March and are sheltering in a sports pavilion on the outskirts of Pemba that, as of Monday, was hosting 324 people, half of them children.

Armed groups have terrorised Cabo Delgado since 2017, with responsibility for some attacks claimed by the local affiliate of Islamic State, in a wave of violence that has claimed more than 2,500 lives, according to the ACLED conflict registration project, and displaced 714,000 people, according to Mozambique’s government.

An attack on 24 March on the town of Palma, near a huge gas complex that is currently under construction, left dozens of people dead and more injured, with no official tally yet announced.

The authorities have since announced that they have retaken control of the town, but the attack has already prompted Total, the led France-based multinational overseeing the gas project, to abandon the site. The complex, which was scheduled to start production of natural gas in 2024, was the basis for many of Mozambique’s economic growth expectations for the next decade.