Conflict and Successive Climate Shocks Worsen Crisis in Northern Mozambique

Mozambique has been battered by five tropical storms along its northern coastal areas since the start of this year. Tens of thousands of families have been affected, including refugees and people internally displaced by ongoing violence in the oil-rich province of Cabo Delgado.

The last storm, Tropical Cyclone Gombe, made landfall on March 11. It affected some 736,000 people, including tens of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and the communities hosting them.

Grainne OHara, the Division of International Protection for the U.N. refugee agency, recently participated in a high-level mission to Mozambique to view the impact of the climate disasters and assess the needs.

She said a visit to Maratane, Mozambique’s main refugee hosting settlement, was an eye-opening experience and that the devastation caused by Cyclone Gombe was huge. She noted that upward of 80 percent of the shelters of both the refugees and hosting communities have been damaged.

“We saw remnants of peoples’ homes, which quite literally had just melted away with the force of the cyclone…and we met with many families who had nothing left but the contents of their kitchen and some bamboo and some small amounts of plastic that they were able to salvage,” Ohara said.

She added that the impact of conflict in Cabo Delgado and extreme weather events have left people extremely vulnerable, and that they are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as well as physical, material, and legal protection.

“Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is one of chronic underfunding,” she said. “And I came away from this visit having had the opportunity to see with my own eyes how serious the situation is there with a sense that this is one of those hidden, overlooked, and forgotten emergencies.”

OHara said the UNHCR needs $36.7 million to scale up its assistance and protection operation in Mozambique this year.

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