"I take care of Zinha like I take care of my own children"

While fleeing the armed conflict with her four children, Maria Antônio found 10-year-old Zinha alone in the bush and decided to take her in until they can find her family.

Lídia Carvalho
Enquanto fugia dos ataques dos grupos armados com seus quatro filhos, Maria Antônio encontrou Zinha, de 10 anos, sozinha no mato e a acolheu levando-a consigo até Metúge.
UNICEF Mozambique/2021/Ricardo Franco
10 January 2022

Miudumbe, Cabo Delgado - The village of Xitase, in the district of Miudumbe, in Cabo Delgado Province, was attacked by armed groups, and the house of Maria Antônio (36 years old) was completely destroyed. She managed to escape with her four children, Wilson Estevão (8 months old), Quareta Estevão (6 years old), Lucia Antonia (10 years old) and Costa Estevão (13 years old).

Along the way, Maria’s family grew as she found little Zinha Manoela (10 years old) in the bush, alone and crying, holding a small bag with a piece of clothing. "I asked where her parents were, and she said she didn't know. I told her to come with me that I would take care of her," recalls Maria. The journey was almost 20km until they reached the reception center in Nangua-B, in the district of Metúge. "It's different from my home, but I'm grateful because I have a shelter for me and my children," said Maria.

Despite the marks of fear and sadness that were left on little Zinha's face after she separated from her family while fleeing the armed attacks, she has slowly adjusted to living with her foster family. "Zinha was always very quiet and was afraid of noises. Today she is better, she already smiles and plays with my children. She has many friends here at the center and loves to jump rope and play with marbles."

UNICEF and partners, with financial support from the Government of Japan, are working to ensure the well-being of Zinha and so many other unaccompanied and separated children by providing services aimed at reuniting them with their parents, family, or legal caregivers as soon as possible.

“Eu cuido da Zinha como cuido dos meus filhos, mas desejo que ela seja feliz com a família dela e que tenha muita saúde!”
UNICEF Mozambique/2021/Ricardo Franco

I take care of Zinha like I take care of my children, but I wish for her to be happy with her family and to be very healthy!

Maria Antônio, 36 years old.

Zinha's mother and aunt have been found and she is now in the process of family reintegration. "Her aunt already came here to visit and thanked me very much for taking care of her. She said that the family thought Zinha was still lost," says Maria. Zinha already knows that she will soon be back with her family and the smile on her face shows that she is looking forward to this reunion.