Geneva Palais Briefing note on the situation of children in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

This is a summary of what was said by Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes – to whom quoted text may be attributed – via video conference from Pemba, Mozambique, at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

13 April 2021
FILE PHOTO: Dec. 4th 2020, Metuge, Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique: Children (and their families) at Metuge IDP camp.
FILE PHOTO: Dec. 4th 2020, Metuge, Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique: Children (and their families) at Metuge IDP camp.

GENEVA, 13 April 2021 – “I have been in Cabo Delgado now for three or four days, meeting people. I was in Montepuez, here in Pemba, and some other locations meeting internally displaced people (IDPs), meeting families, and the people who were all trying to help, including host families in many places. I also met with the authorities and will also meet with the authorities in Maputo.

“What we are seeing here at the moment – what I am seeing here, after years of experience in dealing with humanitarian situations – is that we are facing both a large and likely long-lasting humanitarian situation. One-third of the population is displaced right now. It is really striking to see in some towns that the population has doubled, or in some cases tripled. So, you can imagine how heavy it is for populations in towns and villages that are already poor and don’t have a lot to offer.

“We have very concerning numbers on malnutrition that is starting to come through from SMART surveys that have been done. Particularly among IDP populations in host communities where we have up to 3.8 per cent severe acute malnutrition prevalence, and a general global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of almost 13 per cent, which is quite high, and it’s going to get worse, obviously.

“We are concerned about cholera. Cholera cases are going down a little in Cabo Delgado, but it’s not under control, and it’s actually continuing to increase in some neighbouring provinces, with all the risks that we are facing. So, a very serious, and probably long-lasting humanitarian situation in which access is complicated.

“I think also what we are facing is a very clear protection crisis. It's just constant, constant stories where you talk to people about having to run in the middle of the night, with, hopefully, the family together, but very often, families being separated. We heard from a young woman who was pregnant and had to flee pregnant and with her other child after her husband was just killed in front of her.

“Now these are constant stories, they're stories of people being kidnapped, stories of gender-based violence, horrific stories of the ordeals of people walking for days and days, kids arriving with their feet swollen and injured and having to be taken care of. So, it is a very, very serious protection crisis, as you can imagine.

“At the moment, for example, we have identified more than 200, about 220 children who have been being separated from their parents, but there's certainly more there. For separated children, our work is to identify them, make sure we protect them rapidly, and then make sure that we try to start tracing as early as possible. But we had a couple of cases from Palma yesterday. I was with a number of children yesterday evening, who were in that situation. And, again, terrible stories. I remember this teenage boy, who saw his mother being killed in the field and had to run. His father was actually in another part of the town and then since then, no news. And so, we're basically trying to help them, this takes time, usually, the children arrive completely silent and not able to really articulate much and traumatized in many ways. And then progressively, we try to help them just get back on their feet, physically and psychologically, but also trying to find their families and we're getting some good news on that on, some cases are going better.

“We are also hearing incredible stories of solidarity and resilience. I think we always need to remember how inspiring the actions of people can be in this situation. It's families of five or six people welcoming 20 or 30 people into their homes and trying to care for them. And we need to help the families do that.

“We know cases of the resilience of people who have actually walked and managed but also very interesting stories of people saying we don't want charity, what we want is you to help us get back on our feet. We want to start working again, we want to earn a living.

“So, we know what we need right now is food assistance; it’s some water; some basic supplies because people have been left with nothing. And so, help us get back on our feet and help our kids get back to school. That is something we keep hearing we want our children back in school so we can begin to move on.

“And so, in this context, there are needs for WFP as you heard, there are also needs for UNICEF.  We’re very poorly funded at the moment; we are not sufficiently funded. And we need that support, we can do a lot more. And then we need access. We need really everybody to help us access. The authorities and all parties just need to help us access children and families in need.”

Media contacts

Joe English
Tel: +1 917 893 0692

Additional resources

FILE PHOTO: Dec. 4th 2020, Metuge, Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique: Children (and their families) at Metuge IDP camp.
FILE PHOTO: Dec. 4th 2020, Metuge, Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique: Children (and their families) at Metuge IDP camp.

Additional resources for media 


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