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Children at Risk of Deadly Diseases in Mozambique’s Volatile Cabo Delgado Province

Displaced women attend a meeting at the Centro Agrrio de Napala where hundreds of displaced people are sheltered, fleeing attacks by armed insurgents in different areas of the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique, Dec. 11, 2020.

A quarter of a million displaced children in Mozambique’s conflict-ridden Cabo Delgado province are at risk of deadly diseases with the onset of the rainy season UNICEF warns.

Children account for nearly half of the more than 530,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes in the face of escalating violence in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado.

UNICEF says children have faced many dangers over the past two years, including a devastating cyclone, flooding, drought and economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado tells VOA these children now are threatened with an outbreak of deadly water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera and the further spread of the coronavirus. She says severely malnourished children, in particular, are at great risk.

“Severe acute malnutrition is a potentially life-threatening condition, particularly for children who are already sick with malaria or measles, which exists in Cabo Delgado," said Mercado. "So, children who are suffering from other conditions can be up to nine or 10 times as likely to die as a normal child would from severe acute malnutrition.”

UNICEF says 2 out of every 5 children in the province are chronically malnourished. Mercado notes these children require therapeutic treatment and specialized care to survive.

UNICEF, she says, is sending mobile health teams to screen children for their nutritional status and provide treatment for severe cases.

“We are also, I think very worried about children who have been exposed to high-risk situations and have seen or experienced physical and psychological violence," said Mercado. "And, for this, it is crucial that we strengthen the protection response for these children, which includes psycho-social support and long-term support and care.”

UNICEF is appealing for nearly $53 million to respond to the most urgent humanitarian needs in Mozambique over the coming year. This includes $30 million for the particularly acute needs in Cabo Delgado.