LEICESTERSHIRE, United Kingdom — As of 2022, Mozambique’s population is around 32 million. Its northernmost province, Cabo Delgado, has been the location of a violent insurrection since 2017. The root of this conflict is due to the local communities’ marginalization, exclusion and poverty. Civilians have been motivated by grievances against a government that they perceive as doing little for them, despite the development of major hydrocarbon and mineral deposits.
The insurrection has forced nearly 1 million people to flee their homes. There are still thousands of displaced people who are unable to return to their former lives, and the humanitarian situation across the province remains dire. However, organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) have been present in Cabo Delgado since 2019 to provide support amidst the conflict.
The Armed Conflict and Health Care
The armed conflict has limited access to health care, forcing many families to walk significant distances in order to reach services that will tend to their needs. Even then, many will have to sit on the ground for an unknown amount of time before being seen. Responding to this crisis, Doctors Without Borders are tending to Cabo Delgado’s residents. Its presence in the region involves community-based services by providing mobile clinics, aiding local hospitals and improving access to health care for displaced people who are returning due to the violence.
Palma, a town in Cabo Delgado, has seen improvements in security. With the ongoing aid from Doctors Without Borders, multiple primary health care mobile clinics as well as the district hospital make Palma the only functional health facility within the district.
Philip Aruna, the Regional Support Team leader of Doctors Without Borders for Southern Africa said to AllAfrica “…today we are talking about people going back. I saw lots of people going back to Palma so meaning the situation, seems to be improving.”
Pregnant women and Children
As well as providing essential medical services, the humanitarian organization is also supporting pregnant women and young children. Since October 2021, its health promotion team in Mueda has collaborated with traditional birth attendants and community leaders in order to ensure that women experience a safe pregnancy. One of the team’s objectives is to have more women enter hospitals so they get support through a safe birth.
To achieve this, birth attendants organize regular talks with pregnant women to spread health promotion messages and inform them of the organization’s transportation services to the hospital. One transport method known as the chopela, is always available to transport people to the hospital. From the camp in Eduardo Mondlane in Mueda, the percentage of pregnant women who delivered their babies at a medical facility increased from 33% in January 2022 to 75% in April 2022.
Mental Health Activities
Due to the ongoing violence, hundreds of thousands suffer from its effects. Fear and displacement have also contributed to their distressed physical and mental health. Everyone in the region has experienced and continues to experience trauma. Many are from witnessing “violence or from losing loved ones and their homes.” With the crisis taking a toll on people’s mental health, Doctors Without Borders have provided almost 3,500 individual mental health consultations and arranged group mental health activities for more than 64,000 people in Cabo Delgado.
Its activity in 2021 includes the provision of mental health support to internally displaced people who fled the Palma attacks in March of the same year. The organization of mental health sessions in the Nangua camp aids those displaced by the armed conflict, encouraging them to talk about their experiences and receive PTSD support.
The ongoing efforts of Doctors Without Borders provide the necessary aid, support and hope for Cabo Delgado’s displaced people. In multiple districts, it is the only organization with a regular presence. Assistance is disproportional across Cabo Delgado, with aid being more frequent in the province’s south.
Regardless, its continuous work of providing access to mobile clinics, mental health aid, assisting hospitals and supporting safe pregnancies is one that dutifully serves those impacted by Cabo Delgado’s violent conflict.
– Grace Clay