Geneva — The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday warned that it is gravely concerned about the ongoing violence and insecurity in northern Mozambique.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Grainne Ohara, director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection, lamented that conflict and displacement, compounded by extreme weather events, has led to surging protection needs for hundreds of thousands of affected refugees, internally displaced people, and people from host communities.
She noted that since the start of this year, Mozambique has been battered by five tropical storms and cyclones along its northern coastal areas. Among those affected by the storms were people displaced by the islamist terrorism which has affected Cabo Delgado province since 2017. According to Ohara, this illustrates how the effects of climate change interact with the root causes of displacement.
UNHCR pointed out that on 11 March Tropical Cyclone Gombe hit more than 736,000 people, including those in the Corrane site for internally displaced people and the Maratane refugee centre. Eighty per cent of shelters were damaged and more than 27,000 refugees, asylum-seekers, and host community members remain in urgent need of assistance.
The UN agency sent a mission to the country at the end of April to assess how it can scale up its work for the people affected by the conflict and climate shocks. However, it admits that "humanitarian operations are restricted by chronic underfunding".
Despite this, UNHCR has been responding in areas hit by Gombe and other storms. Its actions include providing shelter and household kits to affected communities and conducting repairs to schools, health clinics, and other key infrastructure.
Along with the Mozambican government and its partners, UNHCR has provided legal assistance to 21,500 people from both displaced and host communities in Cabo Delgado and reached 55,000 people with gender-based violence prevention and response awareness campaigns.
According to Ohara, UNHCR is committed to supporting Mozambique's government, local authorities, and communities in protecting and finding solutions for refugees; assisting Mozambique in addressing the impact of internal displacement; and reinforcing the need for emergency preparedness and responding to extreme weather events.
However, she lamented that the needs in Mozambique, already significant, continue to grow but the resources are not enough. Specifically, to continue and scale up UNCHR's operations in Mozambique will require 36.7 million US dollars in 2022.
Ohara warned that every region of the world is experiencing climate hazards and pointed out that cyclones and other storms are becoming more frequent and severe, floods are stronger, droughts are intensifying, and wildfires are becoming more devastating. She highlighted the fact that over eighty per cent of the world's refugees and internally displaced people come from the most climate-vulnerable countries.