ICRC chief urges more humanitarian aid for northern Mozambique

AFP
Pemba, Mozambique Published: Feb 14, 2021, 09:38 PM(IST)

Refugee unrest in Mozambique Photograph:( AFP )

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Peter Maurer made the call following a visit to Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought shelter after fleeing the extremist violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) chief on Sunday urged aid organisations to loosen their purse strings to help tackle a humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique, reeling from relentless jihadist attacks.

Peter Maurer made the call following a visit to Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought shelter after fleeing the extremist violence.

Mozambique is battling to contain an Islamist fundamentalist insurgency which started in October 2017, and has claimed more than 2,500 lives and displaced more than 570,000 people.

He told AFP that the international community needs to "look more generously at supporting Mozambique in the present situation". 

"It's obvious there are big needs," Maurer said in an interview shortly before flying out of Pemba following a one-day visit. 

"This is a country which has a lot of other needs and on top of it, it gets violence and Covid."

Shadowy jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State group have wreaked havoc in the gas-rich but impoverished province.

Their attacks surged last year, triggering a humanitarian crisis similar to the one caused by Mozambique's 1977-92 civil war.

Yet recent data collected by the US conflict tracker ACLED tentatively suggest the assaults have waned since January under intensified government military ground and air operations.

While the ICRC chief believed that it may be "very early" for  people to start returning to their homes, he said: "I don't want to discourage anybody. ICRC is not the best judge on the security situation."

However, he added: "This is not yet a stable situation."

Maurer urged local authorities to assess the security situation and come up with "durable" solutions for the displaced people.

To have "hundreds of thousands of people displaced... in provisional settlements (or) living with local communities" is not sustainable, he said.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced people are sheltering in camps in and around Pemba, while many others have moved in with host families, which Maurer applauded.

"I (saw) the solidarity, the receptiveness, the understanding of host communities, I was very impressed," he said, adding that by contrast in Europe, a sudden influx of refugees somewhere often "turns into a political drama".

Maurer is scheduled to hold talks with President Filipe Nyusi and cabinet ministers in the Mozambique capital Maputo on Monday.

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