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A life’s work destroyed: crisis in Mozambique

Trigger warning: this article contains mentions of violence that some readers may find upsetting.

Written by Rachael Adams | 03 Sep 2021

Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s most northern region, is a dangerous place to be. Armed groups have led a campaign of violence that includes torching villages, beheading people – including children – and kidnapping. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes – many escaping with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Here is an update on the crisis and how you can pray.

Since 2017, al-Shabaab, an armed group that has ties to the Islamic State, has been carrying out attacks in Cabo Delgado. At the end of last year, however, the violence escalated dramatically, leading to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing.

Al-Shabaab captured the strategic port town of Palma. This led to a siege in which many were killed or injured. Some fled across the border to Tanzania, but many are now living in temporary camps in Mozambique, where the facilities are basic and resources are stretched.

A life’s work destroyed

‘I was okay as l had spent the greater part of my life sowing fields so that I would have something in my old age, and now, this,’ shares 65-year-old Misheck*, who fled the violence with his family. As well as losing his home, Misheck lost his plantation of 300 palm trees when his village was attacked.

‘First they harvested whatever they could carry and then, when they were satisfied with their loot, they then burnt the field. I have not been able to go back to assess the damage and l don't even know if I will be able to go back,’ he says.

Coconut palm trees produce their first fruit in six to ten years, taking 15 to 20 years to reach peak production. Years of hard work by Misheck had been destroyed.

‘Tell me, at this age how am I supposed to start again in this camp? Years and years of sacrifice gone – just like that.’

Misheck’s life has been turned upside down by the violence in Mozambique. He’s lost his whole life’s work | Image credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Misheck’s life has been turned upside down by the violence in Mozambique. He’s lost his whole life’s work | Image credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Sewing hope

Joachim* is a self-taught tailor. But when his village was torched he thought he would have to leave all of that behind.

‘I had bought a fairly new [sewing] machine using my years of savings, but when they attacked our village it got burnt along with other things l owned,’ shares Joachim.

Joachim couldn’t carry his new sewing machine away with him – but his father gave him an old machine, which now helps distract him from the difficulties of living in the camp.

Joachim spends his time mending people’s clothes in the camps, as well as making face masks, to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

‘Sewing is a hobby that distracts me from my problems… I am glad l was able to help many families with masks, but the challenge is to get cloth to make enough masks for everyone,’ explains Joachim.

Joachim, who fled the violence with his young family, has been using his sewing machine to make face masks for people in the camps where he now lives | Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Joachim, who fled the violence with his young family, has been using his sewing machine to make face masks for people in the camps where he now lives | Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Responding to the need

Due to facilities in the camps being very basic, there is a lack of clean water and safe sanitation. This has led to people being forced to drink, wash and cook with water from dirty rivers. And with no toilet facilities, people have no choice but to defecate in the open.

This has led to an increase in cholera – an illness caused by bacteria in dirty water. It is a fatal illness for children.

‘Tearfund is doing all we can to help improve access to clean water and safe sanitation in the camps,’ shares Edgar Jone, who leads Tearfund’s work in Mozambique.

‘As well as providing families with water and sanitation kits, Tearfund, through our partners, is planning on training community activists to raise awareness of hygiene and sanitation and how to slow the spread of coronavirus in the camps.’

Our partners are also providing families like Misheck and Joachim’s with essential supplies such as tents, mosquito nets, torches, sanitary pads, food and seeds.

Homes in Metuge Camp, northern Mozambique, are made from bamboo, mud and grass. Tearfund and our local partners are doing all we can to support those who have fled the violence and who are living in temporary camps | Image Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

Homes in Metuge Camp, northern Mozambique, are made from bamboo, mud and grass. Tearfund and our local partners are doing all we can to support those who have fled the violence and who are living in temporary camps | Image Credit: Stewart Muchapera/Tearfund

What is happening now in Cabo Delgado?

A few weeks ago, a coalition of African forces, led by South African Development Community countries and the Rwandan military, reclaimed Palma from Al-Shabaab.

Though it is still early days, the situation in Cabo Delgado is reported to be much calmer. However, reports of abuses by armed groups and military forces are raising concern. And the threat of Al-Shabaab has not been eliminated.

Al-Shabaab’s reign of violence has led to chronic food shortages in the country. With crops burned, livestock killed and farmers forced to flee, food is in short supply. There are reports of some families now returning to Palma, but unable to earn an income or feed their families.

‘The situation is desperate,’ explains Edgar. ‘Tearfund is doing all we can to support people in need, but this ongoing crisis has stretched our resources.

‘Thank you so much for continuing to hold the people of Mozambique in your prayers – prayer does change things and we trust and have faith in God for the future of this country.’

Pray with us

Dear God,

We pray for an end to the violence in Mozambique. Bring your mercy and your peace, Lord, we pray.

We pray for people like Misheck and Joachim who have been forced to leave everything behind. Bring your provision, comfort and hope for the future, Lord, we pray.

We pray for people who are traumatised or who are ill in the camps. Bring your healing, rest and clean water and safe sanitation, Lord, we pray.

We pray for organisations who are helping people in the camps. Bring your wisdom and multiply their resources so they can reach anyone in need, Lord, we pray.

Lord, make Cabo Delgado a place of safety and refuge – where its people can flourish again.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

*Names changed to protect identities

Written by

Written by Rachael Adams


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