Since October 2017, the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, has been affected by armed violence. This is one of those forgotten wars, but as of June 2022, 946,508 people have been displaced to the southern region of the province and other areas of the country, and there have been 4,398 fatalities.

In addition to the loss of lives and massive displacements, the conflict impacts the livelihoods and food systems of hundreds of thousands of people. All dimensions of food security have been damaged as the capacity to produce and deliver food to the areas has been interrupted. Cabo Delgado province has historically had some of the lowest development indices in Mozambique.

This is affecting communities where attacks occur, from where the population flees leaving behind their meagre resources for survival, as shown in the report by Ayuda en Acción, “War, forced displacement, and responses to the crisis in Cabo Delgado”. But it also puts to the test the capacity of the food systems in the host communities, which were already extremely fragile before the crisis.

The majority of the displaced population has sought refuge among family and friends, and only a small proportion have been accommodated in temporary shelters where they receive humanitarian assistance. The unprecedented number of internally displaced persons poses significant challenges in the host communities, related to the integration of the displaced population, the availability of housing and land to cultivate basic food crops, sources of employment, social infrastructure, or access to basic services, health, and education.

Metuge, Cabo Delgado IDP camps – credit: Fabio de Sousa, Ayuda en Acción.

This situation and these data have indeed drawn the attention of the main United Nations humanitarian agencies, governments around the world, and especially the European Union, and humanitarian and development organizations such as those that form Alliance2015. Because the entire situation highlights the fragility of food systems and livelihoods. State actors are overwhelmed, and the situation in many areas is already at the limit.

In this context of dependence, it is imperative to ensure that extortions and abuses, particularly sexual abuses faced by displaced women in the humanitarian context, are prevented, and transparent and secure reporting mechanisms are put in place where survivors are compensated and their rights guaranteed. This requires humanitarian organizations and government authorities to invest resources in training and awareness-raising tools with a feminist approach in order to reverse existing gender dynamics based on inequalities and prevent these cases.

Another concern is the potential tensions between the displaced population and the host populations as they compete for very scarce resources, both local resources and external aid. The results of the survey conducted by Ayuda en Acción in the districts of Ancuabe and Metuge show how host households also suffer from food insecurity, although it may not be as acute. In fact, the main concern expressed by virtually all households surveyed, both local and displaced, is the shortage of food.

Violence and food insecurity have a two-way relationship and reinforce each other in a vicious circle. The current food crisis in Cabo Delgado is not only a consequence of the armed conflict but may also be a factor contributing to exacerbating the conflict.

If several adverse circumstances were to coincide, such as drought or flooding that damage the next harvests, an increase in food prices, or a reduction in humanitarian aid, the resulting famine could destabilize the fragile existing balance and further aggravate social instability.

Many lessons come from the communities affected by the war. The importance of including geoeconomic elements in the analysis of the causes of the conflict and structural poverty; questioning the foundations of military and humanitarian aid that generate chronic dependencies and discourage the generation of collective agency in the population of Cabo Delgado and alternatives to life; the need to incorporate the knowledge and wisdom of local communities, particularly women, in the analysis and proposals for humanitarian action, development, and peace, and their ability to resist, overcome, heal, and advance despite the added burden of gender-based discrimination and violence.

It is important to note that the situation in Cabo Delgado is not just a humanitarian crisis, but also a development and peacebuilding issue. Therefore, it requires a comprehensive and multi-sectoral response that addresses the root causes of the conflict and the underlying drivers of poverty and inequality.

To achieve this, it is essential to promote inclusive and participatory approaches that involve the affected communities, particularly women and youth, in decision-making processes and the design and implementation of development and peacebuilding interventions. It is also crucial to prioritize investments in basic social services, such as health, education, and water and sanitation, and in the creation of income-generating opportunities for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

In addition, it is necessary to strengthen the capacity and accountability of local and national institutions, including the justice and security sectors, to prevent and respond to violence and abuses and to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights, including those of women and girls.

Finally, it is crucial to mobilize adequate and sustained resources from national and international actors, including donors, to support the implementation of the comprehensive response and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population.

In summary, the crisis in Cabo Delgado is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires a coordinated and integrated response from humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding actors. It also demands a long-term commitment and sustained investment in the resilience and empowerment of the affected communities and in the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts in Mozambique and beyond.

Author: Ayuda en Acción.

Full report available here.

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