The Citizen (KZN)

Mass hunger fears as insurgency hampers aid


Tens of thousands of people are being deprived of humanitari­an aid in northern Mozambique as extremist militants intensify an Islamist insurgency, the UN agency World Food Programme said on Monday.

Jihadists have been waging a violent campaign in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since 2017, launching sporadic attacks on towns and villages in a bid to establish a caliphate.

The insurgency has claimed more than 1 500 lives and displaced at least 250 000 – a tenth of the total provincial population.

Lola Castro, World Food Programme’s regional director for southern Africa, said that of those 250 000 internally displaced, “we are accessing 180 000” – leaving 70 000 people without aid.

Speaking to journalist­s in Johannesbu­rg, Castro described northern Mozambique as “a very worrisome area”.

Cabo Delgado’s insurgency has increasing­ly hampered humanitari­an assistance in the area in recent months, forcing the Internatio­nal Committee for the Red

Cross and Doctors Without Borders to suspend operations in the town of Macomia in June.

The militants took control of a key port city of Mocimboa da Praia nearly four weeks ago and government troops are still battling to recover it.

World Food Programme and other humanitari­an organisati­ons operating in the area are concerned at the prospect of the conflict spreading northwards into neighbouri­ng Tanzania.

Castro also warned that food insecurity could affect 44.8 million people across the southern African region – up from 41.2 million last year – in the coming months through to 2021.

The food shortages arise mainly from the combined effects of drought and economic hardship caused by the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Thirteen of the 16 countries in the Southern African Developmen­t Community bloc are threatened with food insecurity “not seen in many years,” Castro added.

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