Displaced people survive by eating grass amid discrimination in Mozambique

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  • Displaced people in Palma are surviving on grass, tubers, and wild fruits to stave off hunger.
  • Host communities discriminate against displaced people when it comes to healthcare and food aid assistance.
  • The government of Norway availed a US$1 million purse to assist displaced communities' agricultural activities.

Some Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mozambique's Palma district survive by eating grass, wild fruits, and tubers as hunger takes its toll in the conflict-torn area.

The situation was further heightened by the fact that IDPs were discriminated against in their host communities where resources were limited and local leaders forced to prioritise the interests of their subjects.

"The situation is so bad. IDPs spend, on average, more than two months without receiving basics for livelihoods such as rice, beans, oil, and maize. Many have to eat grass collected from the forest," said Borges Nhamirre, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.

READ | Is this the man behind the Mozambique insurgency?

In numerous cases, the IDPs were not officially integrated into communities as such, their makeshift homes were in the middle of nowhere. 

"IDP homes led by elders, women, and children struggle to build their own homes. Some sleep under trees exposed to harsh environmental conditions," he added.

In the Palma area, according to Mozambique's Protection Cluster, attacks by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in March this year triggered the displacement of about 100 000 people.

To date, about 750 000 people, half of them children, had fled their homes in northern Mozambique as attacks and clashes continued to drive displacement and humanitarian and protection needs in Cabo Delgado.

People carry their belongings off a boat as they a
People carry their belongings off a boat as they arrive at Paquitequete beach in Pemba after fleeing Palma, Mozambique, which was hit by insurgents.

Besides hosting IDPs from different communities of Palma district itself, there were also IDPs from Macomia and Mocímboa da Praia districts in Palma.

Because of limited resources, this has led to civilian conflict. 

READ | Defence minister of insurgency-hit Mozambique fired

A recent United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report found that healthcare providers in the locality were also discriminating against IDPs as competition over access to food aid increased.

"Tension between the host and IDP community has been identified and can become a major protection concern. These tensions are linked to the lack of access to essential services, basic assistance, and limited natural resources.

Displaced women meet at the Centro Agr‡rio de Napa
Displaced women meet at the Centro Agr‡rio de Napala where hundreds of displaced arrived in recent months are sheltered, fleeing attacks by armed insurgents in different areas of the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique.

"During the assessment, host community FGD [focus group discussion] participants openly stated that they want the IDP community to return; both communities felt relations were negative and seemed to be deteriorating."

"Community leaders reportedly play a role in host-IDP community tensions, with some leaders said to be denying IDP children access to school and excluding IDP households from distribution lists,” the report says. 

Nhamirre also noted that aid assistance to IDPs was "diverted by local authorities through corruption schemes".

Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a disaggregated data collection, analysis, and crisis global mapping project noted that conflict between host communities and IDPs over agricultural production had increased.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, wearing militar
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, wearing military fatigue in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, during in September.

"Land competition has been a concern for a long time, but efforts to encourage agriculture in host communities by displaced people as a way to confront Cabo Delgado's food insecurity crisis are likely to make that competition more intense," ACLED said in its latest weekly report.

With the Mozambican government incapacitated in helping IDPs, the government of Norway had since availed a US$1 million agriculture support system for displaced communities and their hosts in Chiure and Metuge districts through the Aga Khan Mozambique Foundation. 

- Lenin Ndebele is the News24 Africa Desk journalist. The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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