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UN Scaling Up Aid for Victims of Brutal Attack in Mozambique

People wait on the outskirts of the seaport of Pemba on March 30, 2021 for the possible arrival of their families evacuated from the coasts of Afungi and Palma after the attack by armed forces against the city of Palma on March 24, 2021.

The UN.'s International Organization for Migration said Tuesday that more than 3,360 deeply traumatized survivors of last week's massacre in Palma District in northern Mozambique have arrived in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, and many more reportedly are on the way.

IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said they have been arriving by foot, bus, plane and boat. He said many fled with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

"Our staff on the ground have been told that many of those evacuated saw their family members being killed, that they hid in the forest for days to evade the armed men who attacked their communities," Dillon said. "Others, of course, do not know where their family members are. They reported also that many homes were destroyed."

Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed by Islamist militants who attacked Palma on March 24. Aid agencies report the situation there remains very volatile. Communications have been cut, so information is hard to get.

An insurgency that broke out in Cabo Delgado in October 2017 by Islamist militants to establish an Islamist state has since developed into a humanitarian crisis. It has displaced some 700,000 civilians, half of them children.

U.N. Children’s Fund spokeswoman in Pemba, Marixie Mercado, said UNICEF teams were at Pemba airport Monday to receive children evacuated from Afungi, a district in Palma.

“There were at least seven children on that plane who were completely alone. All the children are disoriented and afraid,” she said. “Many had spent days hiding in the bush without food and water. There were some terrible scenes. One injured girl, around five years old, was carried off the plane moaning in pain. We cannot confirm her age, because she was so traumatized all she could say was her name.”

Mercado said Pemba Provincial Hospital is doing its best to care for injured children. Aid agencies are rushing emergency supplies to the area. The World Health Organization reports it has enough medical supplies in the province to support the population for now.

The World Food Program is providing emergency food aid and is pre-positioning thousands of response ration kits in the southern parts of Mozambique’s Palma District. The U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, which is run by WFP is providing an air bridge to transport critical supplies and staff and to evacuate civilians from Palma.

Other U.N. and private agencies also are contributing essential material relief, as well as protection and crucial psychosocial counseling to help the many victims of this brutal attack deal with their ongoing distress.