Map of Cabo Delgado Mozambique
Cabo Delgado Mozambique

GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency reports thousands of people in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province are fleeing a recent escalation of violence and brutal attacks by armed groups.

The U.N. refugee agency reports these recent attacks are among the most violent and brutal since armed groups began raiding and creating havoc in Cabo Delgado in October 2017.  The agency says at least 100,000 people have been displaced since then and numbers are increasing as the carnage escalates.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the violence now has spread across nine of the province’s 16 districts.  He says people in the province are being terrorized by motley groups of armed men.  

He says some are involved in banditry.  Others are motivated by opportunistic or ideological reasons.  But all are striking fear in people forced to flee for their lives.  

“Armed groups have been randomly targeting local villages and terrorizing the local population," said Mahecic. "Those fleeing speak of killings, maiming, and torture, burned homes, destroyed crops and shops.  We have reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children.”  

Mahecic did not identify any of the groups, but the government has been dealing with a jihadist insurgency in Cabo Delgado.

There also have been clashes between the government and a faction of rebel-turned-opposition group Renamo.  President Felipe Nyusi signed a new peace deal with Renamo last August but part of the group rejected the agreement.

Mahecic says most of the people fleeing the violence leave behind their belongings.  He says hundreds of villages have been burned, and many are completely abandoned as attackers carry out a wide-ranging indiscriminate campaign of terror.  He says government institutions also have been attacked.

Cabo Delgado is the poorest province in Mozambique.  Many of the areas that have been attacked were devastated by Cyclone Kenneth last April.  And the region is reeling from recent floods, which have destroyed bridges, making it difficult for people to get food and other essentials.

The UNHCR says the humanitarian situation in the province is rapidly deteriorating and people are in desperate and urgent need of shelter, food, water and other aid.

The agency is appealing for international support to scale up its humanitarian operation.  In the meantime, it is contributing $2 million from its reserve fund to meet the initial needs of the many people who cannot wait until more money comes in.