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Hunger Stalks Thousands in Northern Mozambique as Conflict Escalates

A World Food Programme (WFP) helicopter takes off, in Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019.

The U.N. World Food Program warns northern Mozambique’s volatile Cabo Delgado province is facing a hunger crisis as escalating conflict forces thousands to flee their homes and abandon farms.

An armed insurgency in Mozambique’s oil-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado has displaced more than 300,000 people since 2017. As fighting has intensified in recent months, thousands have fled to neighboring Tanzania, raising fears of a regionalization of the conflict.

Most of the displaced have no means to feed themselves, and WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says many are totally dependent on international food aid for survival.

“We know that Cabo Delgado is a farming area," said Phiri. "This is a region that produces both crops for commercial as well as for the subsistence of the farmers there. And, we know that when there is violence and if the farmer is not guaranteed to be there to harvest, they hardly put any seeds into the ground.”

The WFP plans to send food aid to reach 310,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa. But it notes insecurity, poor infrastructure and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of money are threatening the operation.

Phiri says the agency urgently requires $4.7 million a month to assist the internally displaced. He tells VOA the WFP will be forced to cut back on rations as early as December, if it doesn’t receive the needed funds. This, he adds will have serious consequences.

“When you cut rations, the adults, particularly the mothers in the family—they start skipping meals," said Phiri. "They start reducing the meal portions in order to stretch whatever resources are available for the children to have something…We are also concerned because Cabo Delgado has very high malnutrition rates.”

Cabo Delgado has the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the country with more than half of children under age five chronically malnourished.

The U.N. agency has enough money in its coffers to feed the internally displaced over the next couple of months. The WFP, however, warns it may be forced to suspend its life-saving operation if the funding shortage persists beyond the end of the year.

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