Assistant High Commissioners Gillian Triggs and Raouf Mazou were fresh out of place, hearing shocking stories from survivors of a crisis unfolding in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of some devastating cyclones.
Violence is escalating, they told reporters in Geneva, with the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) rising from about 70,000 nearly a year ago to close to 700,000 today, and expected to reach one million by June.
“If anyone sees the speed with which we are seeing the number of internally displaced persons increasing, we know that the window of opportunity we have is closing,” he said. Mazou, who is UNHCRAssistant High Commissioner for Operations.
Beheadings and rapes
The uprising started in 2017 and more than 2,000 people have been killed, but it is not clear who the insurgents are, how they are supported or what they want, according to Ms. Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Defense.
The mysterious group has been responsible for beheadings, murders, rapes and other atrocities.
The displaced people, more than half of them children, fled by boat or land to safer areas in southern Cabo Delgado province. Most, or about 90 percent, have found shelter with family and friends in urban areas, or with host communities in villages. The Mozambican government is developing sites for the remaining displaced people.
Authorities have also relocated some people from overcrowded areas to a settlement where they are living in primitive conditions and shelter, food, clothing, as well as water and sanitation, are much needed. Mrs. Triggs said as authorities distributed food there in December, no further distribution has taken place since then, either by the Government or by the UN World Food Program (WFP)
UNHCR / Martim Gray Pereira
She also heard shocking stories of grandmothers caring for orphaned grandchildren, which is now becoming commonplace.
In this case, the grandmother was caring for a baby, a few months old. Her daughter was killed in the conflict. The baby’s father had been killed, beheaded, and the grandmother was now in this period of grief, trying to care for this milkless baby, where they were grinding root vegetables for the kids, giving them diarrhea and exposing everyone kind of other things, she said.
Mrs. Triggs reported on some bright spots that have emerged, including a project to provide displaced people with official documentation that will allow them to access education, transportation and social services.
But with the Mozambican Government saying it is uncertain that people will be able to return home, given the instability, Mr Mazou noted the need for greater international support. A $ 254 million humanitarian call is funded by only about five percent.
Authorities have set up a development agency for northern Mozambique, he said, in an effort to address some of the main causes of the crisis, which include underdevelopment and access to resources.
What I was facing now was the need for immediate humanitarian assistance. and also to think for a long time about those who can stay in the places where they are now, he said.
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