Children are paying the price in Mozambique insurgency, says aid organisation
Homeless and traumatised — that’s the plight of hundreds of thousands of children in Mozambique’s conflict-torn Cabo Delgado province.
Aid organisation Save the Children, which is working with displaced children in the violence-gripped region, says it is deeply concerned about their fate.
Chance Briggs, Save the Children’s country director in Mozambique, appealed to southern African leaders deciding on possible interventions in the northern province to take the immediate needs and safety of children into account.
“Children are being targeted in this conflict. They are killed, abducted and forced to leave their homes and sense of safety behind. Children must be front and centre of any response in Cabo Delgado,” he said.
Briggs said hundreds of thousands of children and their families — more than one-third of the population in the province — are displaced across Cabo Delgado.
According to the Institute for Security Studies, “the Cabo Delgado crisis has escalated dramatically since the beginning of 2020, with more than 2,500 civilians killed and close to 700,000 people internally displaced”.
Witnesses report have detailed atrocities by Islamic State-linked insurgents.
“Amnesty International says extremists have ‘deliberately killed civilians, burned villages and towns, and committed heinous acts of violence with machetes, including numerous beheadings and desecration of corpses’.”
The province’s town of Palma, adjacent to gas projects worth around $60bn (about R873bn) and a base for foreign companies, was the target of attacks by insurgents that started on March 24.
Briggs said some displaced families are living with relatives and many others are living in temporary camps.
“In too many cases, these children and their families are living in squalid conditions. The children need the basics — food, clean water, shelter and health care — and they also need at minimum some degree of psychosocial support to help them process the horrors they have seen,” he said.
“They also need to be able to go back to school, both to exercise their right to learn and to support some sense of normalcy despite the terror they have experienced.
“Aid agencies like Save the Children are working with displaced children and their families in temporary camps and in host communities, working hard to meet the basic needs of children and their families, but there simply are not enough resources available.
“With the Mozambique humanitarian response plan only 1% funded, there remains a massive gap of $250m [about R3.64bn] that urgently needs to be filled.
“We urgently call on donor governments to step up their funding commitments to fully fund the humanitarian response in Cabo Delgado and to ensure in particular that child protection needs, including mental health support and family tracing and reunification, are covered.”