The heart trembles with sorrow upon learning of the harrowing mass displacement of countless souls from their homes in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The sheer magnitude of this exodus echoes like a haunting lament, reminding us of the unfathomable pain and turmoil experienced by those forced to leave everything behind. It is a sombre testament to the fragility of peace and security in Africa, urging us to strive for a future where such tragedies are but distant memories.

By Themba Khumalo

The tragic stories of displacement, loss, starvation and killings in Cabo Delgado province serve as a haunting reminder of the human toll of conflict.

Families torn apart, children clinging to their parents in fear, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead – these images are a stark reflection of the fragile nature of life in times of violence. The exodus of innocent souls fleeing their homes paints a haunting picture of a community in crisis, highlighting the urgent need for peace and stability in this troubled region.

According to, a significant number of people, nearing one million, continue to be displaced due to the ongoing armed conflict in northern Mozambique. Those who have been displaced have experienced violence and multiple instances of being forced to flee their homes in recent years. They still depend on humanitarian aid to survive, as most do not have secure land. The issue of food insecurity exacerbates the vulnerability of internally displaced individuals, host communities, and returnees.

According to the most recent report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), there is an anticipated increase in people experiencing acute food insecurity. The report estimates that the figure will rise from 2.6 million to 3.3 million people from October 2023 to March 2024.

The rise in numbers encompasses 220,000 individuals living in Mocímboa da Praia and Meluco, specifically those affected by conflict, local communities, and those who have returned. These groups share comparable socio-economic challenges. Many health facilities have suffered extensive damage or destruction, which has had a detrimental impact on their ability to identify and address disease outbreaks as well as deliver essential and prompt medical assistance.

The displaced often encounter various challenges when it comes to safety, such as the separation of families, mental distress, and the absence of necessary civil documentation. These obstacles not only expose them to protection risks but also hinder their ability to access essential services.

Several families have said they have been separated from their immediate family members, and they are unaware of the current situation and location of those who stayed behind. As of March 5, 2024, there were a total of 154 children reported missing and 182 unaccompanied children. Through family tracing efforts, certain children were successfully reunited with their families.

Individuals who have been internally displaced shared accounts of deeply distressing experiences with Reliefweb. Many recounted witnessing the murders of their immediate family members and the destruction of their personal belongings. Those individuals who have experienced the loss, abduction, or drowning of their close family members are in great need of urgent mental health support due to the extreme trauma they have endured.

Those who are most at risk include elderly individuals without assistance, individuals with disabilities, individuals with ongoing health issues, and expectant mothers. Many people have difficulties obtaining their medications or misplacing their assistive devices while fleeing, and others have separated from their primary carers. During their displacement, families also lost important civil documents.

Women who lack official identification are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, abuse, harassment, discrimination, and various other types of violence based on gender. Men have endured instances of harassment, physical violence, and arbitrary detention at the hands of the armed forces. Within areas where individuals seek shelter in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites, transit centres, and host communities, internally displaced persons face potential dangers due to crowded conditions and insufficient resting facilities.

Highlights from Reliefweb’s report

●A total of 112,894 people have been displaced since 22 December due to attacks or fear of attacks by non-state armed groups (NSAGs).

●The highest displacement is from Chiure in February, with 91,239 people having fled their homes. The attacks occurred in the middle of the harvest season, leaving farmers with no choice but to abandon their farmlands and livestock.

●More than 64,000 people have been reached with food assistance and 24,000 with shelter and non-food items as well as protection activities, such as family tracing, the provision of assistive devices, dissemination of key protection messages and referrals of vulnerable individuals to life-saving services, mental health, and psychosocial support, among others.

●Funding shortfalls prevent a multisectoral response at scale. Humanitarian partners are struggling to meet the needs of a rising number of IDPs.

The world’s apathy and indifference towards the suffering of the people in Cabo Delgado is nothing short of shameful. The African Union and SADCC have failed miserably in their duties to protect and stand up for those who are being terrorised daily. It is high time that these organisations stop twiddling their thumbs and take concrete action to put an end to this crisis.

The lack of urgency and compassion displayed by the international community is sickening, and it is high time that they wake up and do something meaningful to alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Sending a surge of humanitarian support should only be the first step in a long overdue process of intervention and resolution.

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