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Thousands displaced, healthcare jeopardised, as violence surges in Cabo Delgado

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Maputo, Mozambique – An armed group attacked the village of Macomia, in Cabo Delgado province, far northeastern Mozambique in the early hours of 28 May. As insurgents entered the town, people fled into the bush and to neighbouring villages.  The group set fire to homes, shops, schools, religious and government buildings. The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported health, located near those buildings and military barracks, was severely damaged.  

“MSF had 27 staff supporting the Macomia health centre. They hid in the bush for nearly two days, terrified to come out,” says Caroline Gaudron Rose, MSF’s head of mission.  “Thankfully, no-one was injured and today everyone is accounted for.”  

“This attack, and those before it, has forced thousands to flee,” says Gaudron Rose. “Our ability to reach those in need is jeopardised by this increase in violence and with the destruction of the health centre.” 

The situation could be extremely dire for those who were forced to flee from Macomia... without shelter, clean water and access to medical care, they are extremely vulnerable. Caroline Gaudron Rose, MSF head of mission in Mozambique

After years of violent episodes, Cabo Delgado province has seen a surge in attacks since March.  These assaults have decimated villages and terrified local people. Macomia was already home to thousands of displaced people from previous attacks, and the numbers of those forced to leave their homes in the province is growing.  

“There are still thousands of displaced people who are hiding in the bush, too scared to go back to their villages. They are terrified of the ongoing violence,” says Gaudron Rose. “The situation could be extremely dire for those who were forced to flee from Macomia and other villages; without shelter, clean water and access to medical care, they are extremely vulnerable.”

Access to the northern region of Mozambique has become more difficult since violence erupted in late 2017.  However, humanitarian assistance is crucial for displaced people, already suffering from malaria and cholera outbreaks and with little access to HIV and TB care.  These medical conditions are compounded by the violence in the province.  

MSF already suspended our medical support in Mocimboa de Praia, also in Cabo Delgado province, following attacks on the town in March.  Due to this most recent attack, we have also suspended our support in Macomia.  MSF is actively reviewing our strategy in order to continue supporting the thousands of people that have lost their livelihoods, homes and communities.

MSF has been present in Mozambique since 1984.  In the city of Pemba, MSF is supporting health authorities in improving access to water and sanitation as well as responding to possible outbreaks of diarrhea and cholera. MSF is also present in Maputo and Beira providing care to people with advanced HIV, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and vulnerable populations.  Across all projects, MSF is supporting the Mozambique Ministry of Health in its response to COVID through the implementation of preventative measures including infection control, triage and surveillance.

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