Extremists thriving across Mozambique's northern border, UN officials warn

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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 Mozambique.
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 Mozambique.
Alfredo Zuniga, AFP
  • The humanitarian and security crisis in northern Mozambique has spilled across the border into Malawi and Tanzania, a UNDP official has warned.
  • A UN delegation visited displaced people and their host communities in the north of Mozambique. 
  • They warn that extremists and armed groups thrive where development and governance are absent.

Extremists and armed groups are thriving in the border area of northern Mozambique, and cross-border collaboration is urgently needed to address this, a United Nations Development Programme official has warned.

During a briefing on the worsening humanitarian situation there, Alessandra Casazza, from the UNDP's Regional Service Centre for Africa, said the crisis was not confined to Mozambique's northern province of Cabo Delgado only.

"This is together, a humanitarian crisis, this is a security crisis, and this is also a development crisis which requires urgent action," she said.

She said the security situation needed to be restored and that there should be support for "long-term development solutions".

Casazza, who was part of a UN delegation that visited the city of Pemba and the districts of Ancuabe and Chiúre last month, said it was clear that the crisis "spans across the border to Tanzania and Malawi. This is a crisis that has cross-border dimensions," she said.

She added: 

It requires strengthening cooperation across the countries, particularly to bring long term development in border areas. This means investing in cross-border trade, social infrastructure and social services, building governance institutions and social cohesion and generally promoting economic opportunities for these communities to prosper.

Casazza said extremists and armed groups really thrive in border areas where there is a development and institutional vacuum.

"Therefore bringing long-term development in these remote areas reduce opportunities for recruitment and support for these armed groups," she said.

She added that the UNDP and the UN wanted to work with the Mozambican government to address these issues.

It wanted to contribute by helping support those displaced by the conflict to help them recover and access social services and work opportunities.

"There are no indications, at least for the moment, that the people who had to leave their homes from the violence in Cabo Delgado, are willing to return in the near future," she said.

"It is very critical, it is very important that we at the UNDP help support their integration with the host communities."

ALSO READ | Mozambique replaces army chief as jihadist attacks intensify

According to the UN, attacks by non-state groups have forced more than 565 000 people to flee their homes and villages, and abandon their crops and livelihoods.

The officials said they witnessed cases in which more than 60 people were hosted in one dwelling and were forced to sleep on the floor and share one toilet. This made them vulnerable to diseases, including Covid-19.

"The growing insecurity and poor infrastructure have meant that reaching out to people in need has become harder and, coupled with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the crisis has become even more complex," officials said in a joint statement.

They said the lack of adequate food, water, sanitation, shelter, health, protection and education was exacerbating an already dire situation for the displaced people, and this was set to be further compounded by the imminent rainy season.

ALSO READ | Tropical storm Eloise gathers steam, set to cause havoc in parts of South Africa with extreme rain

Mozambique is subject to climate extremes as illustrated by cyclones Idai and Kenneth in 2019, and tropical storm Chalane last month, which hit some of the same areas.

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