Internally Displaced Persons Wait in Line During a United Nations World Food Programme February 24, 2021 Photo: AFP

Hunger forces internally displaced Mozambicans to risk heading back home for food

*A critical lack of food has forced a brave few Internally Displaced Mozambicans to return to their old homes to forage for whatever they can to survive

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In a situation resemblance of the aphorism, ‘jumping out of the frying pan into the fire’, hitherto brutal jihadist violence had displaced and compelled several Mozambicans to flee their homes.

But now, hunger again has driven some of them to risk their lives by sneaking back to their old residences to gather food, or even resume farming for survival.

Approximately 670,000 people have been displaced by an extremist insurgency that has raged for three years in Northern Mozambique, says agency report.

It was learnt that some have moved in with host families, others are living in temporary shelters, whereas some others have resettled in newly-created safe villages in the country.

Report indicated that a critical lack of food had forced a brave few IDPs to return to their old homes to forage for whatever they can to survive.

Twenty-two-year-old Lal Dady, one of the internally displaced persons and father of one, said that one day he left his new home in the Metuge resettlement camp to scour his granaries in Quissanga, a district in Cabo Delgado province, where the Islamists are waging their bloody campaign.

“I got chestnuts and other food products to feed my family,” stated he.

Whereas some others are even more daring in an attempt to return home as a result of hunger, according to report.

Mussa Cesar, 43, confessed that he goes back to Quissanga — an eight-hour walk — to work on his old farmland.

“I have been going to Quissanga for my field. I stay there around three days, cultivating and then come back,” he said, sitting under a tree and playing a traditional draughts game with friends.

Cesar stated: “And I bring back manioc for my family here. We just don’t do the fishing, because we are afraid.”

Voucher programme

Attacks by shadowy jihadists affiliated to the Islamic State were said to have skyrocketed in 2020 in gas-rich province, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

The number of violent incidents has dropped significantly, according to conflict data collating organisation ACLED, but the security situation is still precarious across the province.

Local authorities warned AFP journalists to not use some roads not far from the resettlement camps, because they were unsafe.

Villagers in the far-north Palma district, the home of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project targeted by the militants, are particularly vulnerable.

The World Food Programme (WFP) distributed vouchers December 2020 and January 2021, which locals use to buy food from shops, report said.

However, Cristina Graziani, Head of the WFP Field Office in the provincial capital Pemba, said that programme was “difficult to sustain because the stores are facing the same difficulties to restock commodities in Palma.”

Even before the insurgency struck, Cabo Delgado was already one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique, itself ranked among the world’s poorest countries.

The UN announced this week that 1.3 million people in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring Niassa and Nampula provinces are in need of humanitarian aid, with 950,000 facing “severe hunger”.

Now, the scramble for food is evident in the Pemba neighbourhood of Paquite Quete, where many displaced people have moved in with locals, according to report.

The locals complain that they are being excluded from humanitarian food aid, despite having taken in extra mouths to feed.

Widow Josina Fernando, 34, who is hosting 30 people who fled from the hard-hit district of Macomia, is angry at not being considered for food handouts.

“One day there was a distribution and I went there, but was sent away,” Fernando said.

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