Põhisisu juurde
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)

humanitarian crisis grows in Cabo Delgado as conflict continues

Almost 800,000 people have been displaced by an ongoing insurgency in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, nearly half the population of the province. Some 175,000 of them have found refuge in and around the province’s capital of Pemba.

With EU humanitarian funding, aid agencies provide basic humanitarian assistance, including the rehabilitation of health centres and schools. We have committed nearly €17 million in 2021 alone to address some of the most basic needs for the displaced and local host communities.

“First we fled into the bush when Al Shabab attacked our village”, explains Jifa Nguile who is over 70 years old. “But my sons then helped me and my granddaughters to flee first to Macomia and then to this place near Pemba, where we feel much more secure.”

She lives in a hut made from bamboo and mud with a simple plastic sheet as a roof. Although this is not much, she can take care of herself and her granddaughters.

The insurgency, which started some 3 years ago, has killed over 3,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands, some even more than once.

As we visited the area, in October 2021, 117 families who had fled an attack on their village just a few days before, were receiving emergency packages including food for 2 weeks, hygiene products and cooking utensils.

Mozambique Cabo Delgado blog
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)

Jifa Nguile managed to escape the violence. She has found shelter near Metuge. © European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)


According to the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) operations in Pemba, Cristina Graziani, aid agencies have seen a dramatic rise in the population in need: “Just over a year ago, we supported some 30,000 people”, she explains.

“Now we are dealing with the needs of over 750,000 displaced in the province. More have sought refuge in neighbouring provinces. The lean season is now approaching. It is a critical time for the rural communities as they await the harvest.”

Cristina Graziani

Rehabilitating schools and health stations

Many of the displaced have also settled in the city of Pemba itself, hoping to find casual work and access to education and health. But this has also placed a tremendous strain on the local health and education services, already struggling to provide for the existing population before the crisis.

For the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s Health Program Manager in Pemba, Emilio Mashant Tshiteng, one solution has been the rehabilitation of 3 community health stations in Pemba.

With EU humanitarian funding, the Mahate Health Station is now completely refurbished, well stocked with medicines, and has dedicated local staff.

“This project benefits both the displaced and the local community as they now have access to this improved facility”, he explains. “The needs are tremendous with the staff dealing, at times, with nearly 1,000 consultations per day, mainly cases of malaria and paediatrics.”

Mozambique Cabo Delgado blog
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)

The refurbished primary health care centre benefits both thousands of IDPs and people from the host communities.
© European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)

Given that more than half the displaced are children, access to health services for their children is only one challenge for parents: education is another.  

At the “Natite” primary school, in a crowded residential area in downtown Pemba, a dozen 8-year old boys and girls in their blue and dark blue uniforms are hunched over rickety wooden school desks, slowly writing down their ABCs in their notebooks.

For over a year, their school had been closed due to COVID-19. Now they are eager to be back and play with their friends again.  

The school was already providing basic education to over 3,000 children and has had to make space for an additional 660 from the displaced communities. With EU humanitarian support, the Italian NGO 'GVC-WeWorld' offers remedial and catch-up classes for kids from both communities.

Protecting displaced people

Addressing protection issues is also one of the main concerns of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the settlement camps around Pemba and Metuge.

With the help of the community and using local materials, UNHCR has constructed “protection houses”, allowing their qualified staff and partner organisations to provide confidential counselling to victims of gender-based violence, or advocate against child marriages, while also training community volunteers on such issues.

“I still have contact with my sons who decided to stay near our village”, explains Jifa Nguile. “They have small farms which were our only livelihood. We long to return but we are scared.”

Mozambique Cabo Delgado blog
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)
European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)

Young volunteers from the displaced communities receive training in providing information to their fellow displaced on issues of gender-based violence and early marriage. They can advise victims to seek advice from trained staff of the various NGOs.
© European Union, 2021 (photographer: Alfredo Zuniga/Factstory)


Story by Mathias Eick, Regional Information Officer, Great Lakes and Eastern and Southern Africa, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Last updated: 08/11/2021