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UNHCR steps up response as thousands flee attacks in northern Mozambique

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UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, continues to work around the clock to help thousands of people reach safety in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique. A recent insurgent attack on the coastal city of Palma brought out at least 11,000 people, and thousands more were reportedly trapped inside the region.

Civilians have been arriving in Pemba, Nangade, Mueda and Montepuez on foot, by road and by boat since March 24, following the attack. Humanitarian flights that initially helped evacuate hundreds of people have been suspended pending further authorization from the authorities.

UNHCR teams in Pemba received disturbing reports from displaced populations that more than 1,000 people fleeing Mozambique and trying to enter Tanzania were not allowed to cross the border to seek asylum. We are monitoring these reports in Tanzania. UNHCR calls on Mozambique’s neighbors to provide access to territory and asylum procedures to those fleeing violence and seeking protection.

Three years of unrest in the north of the country have displaced nearly 700,000 people inside Mozambique – most in the past year. UNHCR officials have warned that number could cross the one million mark by June of this year if the ongoing violence does not end.

UNHCR is putting measures in place to accommodate more arrivals in the coming days. Our staff are reaching areas outside of Pemba to help newly displaced people.

The majority of the new arrivals are women and children with little personal belongings, most showing signs of severe trauma from the atrocities they have witnessed and worried for loved ones who have been left behind. The sudden and deadly nature of the attacks left families torn apart, many still unable to leave. Among the vulnerable groups arriving in Pemba were unaccompanied children, separated families and the elderly.

UNHCR and partners distributed relief items, including blankets and sleeping pads. Some people are accommodated in a transit center in Pemba, set up by the government, while the majority of displaced people live with relatives and friends whose meager resources are quickly depleted.

We identify the most vulnerable cases requiring urgent assistance and refer them to services, and find and reunite lost family members. Almost 80% of those separated are women and children. UNHCR is also training staff of partner organizations to protect displaced people from gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.

The escalation of violence in Cabo Delgado has severely affected health, water and shelter and access to food in the region. This heartbreaking humanitarian crisis is compounded by an already fragile situation of chronic underdevelopment, consecutive climate disasters and recurrent epidemics, including, most recently, COVID-19.

More resources are badly needed as underfunding hinders our humanitarian response. UNHCR’s appeal for our $ 19.2 million Cabo Delgado is just under 40% funded

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