Slow aid response to Mozambique risks fuelling insurgency: UNHCR

Jihadists, known locally as Al-Shabab and affiliated to the Islamic State group, have wreaked havoc in the gas-rich but deeply impoverished Cabo Delgado province since 2017.

A woman walks through the huts at the 25 de Junio camp for the displaced people in Metuge on December 9, 2020 where over 16.000 displaced from the northern Cabo Delgado area are now sheltered. Picture: Alfredo Zuniga/AFP

MAPUTO - The slow response to a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique's remote north risks fuelling radicalisation and exacerbating the insurgency gripping the region for the last three years, UN officials warned on Friday.

Jihadists, known locally as Al-Shabab and affiliated to the Islamic State group, have wreaked havoc in the gas-rich but deeply impoverished Cabo Delgado province since 2017.

The attacks have uprooted at least 670,000 civilians, placing severe pressure on humanitarian aid services.

During a visit to Cabo Delgado, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials decried the slow response by the government and the international community to appeals for more resources.

"If services are not provided there is a risk of radicalisation and it is possible it will be a fuel for the insurgency," UNHCR's Gillian Triggs told an online briefing from the province.

Jobless young men are "disgruntled" and living in difficult situations, creating fertile ground for recruitment into the ranks of the insurgency, she said.

"It is a desperate situation," said Triggs, who is the UNHCR's assistant high commissioner for protection.

The violence escalated last year, triggering a humanitarian crisis similar to the end of Mozambique's 16-year civil war that ended in 1992.

The humanitarian crisis was worsened by last year's floods and Cyclone Kenneth which struck in 2019.

Access to the region has been hampered by insecurity and poor transport networks.

The insurgency has killed at least 2,600 people, half of them civilians, according to the US-based data collecting agency Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED).

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