“We stayed here, in this same district of Macomia since the beginning and throughout the conflict and we never left this area. At this moment, there are lots of people in this village, but what happened was that, during the attacks, we fled into the woods and stayed there for six days without water or food. To this day, we're still here and we haven't gone anywhere”, said Mendonça João.
Mendonça, 25 years old, experienced the horrors of the armed conflict and the violence in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique. Shortly after the attacks on the village by non-State armed groups, she found her home burned along with buildings such as schools, clinics and the local police stations.
Life has been very difficult since then, defined by constant fear, the non-existence of basic services and the complete lack of resources. This reality created a new reality which prompted most residents to leave the area in search of safety, shelter along food and water.
A little over a year later, Mendonça continues rebuilding her life. She is not alone in her story: Many of the 744,000* internally displaced people who fled the conflict areas, some for as long as two years, are slowly starting to voluntarily return to their areas of origin. Although the number of returnees remain limited at this time, it is expected that these numbers will further increase as the security situation improves.
People from Cabo Delgado are currently living in and returning to areas where all infrastructure was destroyed, including buildings which were already damaged by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019, and where the provision of basic public services has yet to resume.
In areas that were liberated by government forces, the key challenge is to reestablish basic social services such as health, education, and kick-start the local economy to enable people to get back to a normal life as quickly as possible.
UNDP’s stabilization programme in northern Mozambique builds on the understanding that rapidly rehabilitating core infrastructures and providing income generation activities along with social cohesion interventions will lay the foundation for increased access for more long-term development to take place. It addresses the urgent needs of civilian populations in terms of essential infrastructure and services, physical security and job creation.
UNDP directly supports local governments through reconstruction of public buildings (schools, clinics, hospitals, administrations), infrastructure repair (street lighting, water points, road access) and cash-for-work activities that bring back basic services to the population and help families gain income as they revitalize their community.
The unconditional cash transfer modality is also used to support women headed households. UNDP is also working to ensure that all interventions are gender sensitive and that women are supported in non-traditional activities such as painting buildings and engaging in small businesses.
The provision of mobile phones as part of the cash-for-work is particularly important as it is enabling women to have access to their own financial resources while developing skills around using the mobile transfer.
Sete Mascote, another survivor of the conflict in Macomia, is using the cash-for-work activities to erase the marks of destruction in his community.
“Here we had nothing to eat, nor clothing. Everything burned, all houses burned. To start these activities, we first organized a group of 30 people, 15 women and 15 men, and received materials so that we could work and clean up the area. Secondly, we came here to the school, cleaned it and painted it too. There were five attacks in the locality and not all residents returned home. But at least for us who are living here, we are already working.”
Around 700 local vulnerable people of which 50% are women have participated in the activities that consist of cleaning roads, painting school walls and repairing water points in different locations. These immediate economic activities are expanding to other villages of Macomia and Quissanga districts with the aim to reach 2,000 heads of households by mid-November 2021.
Currently, UNDP is supporting the full reconstruction of the Macomia Health Center. Immediate cleanup and minor repairs are underway, including the installation of a generator for light, mainly in the maternity ward where mothers were previously giving birth in the dark.
Catarina Falume, a resident of Macomia who works with the local community and returnees in the district's clean-up activities, supported by UNDP reported:
“I am responsible for the family, but currently the financial life is not good, because we are unstable. There is a lot of running around due to insecurity. There is great value in this activity that we do, because we are putting the area of our hospital with good visibility and hygiene. We hope that our hospital will have the same conditions as before.
When this activity ends, I will produce my cassava again. Because at the end of this activity, I will have some money in my hands.”
To respond to the urgent needs of both IDPs and host communities, the international community has been mobilizing a large-scale humanitarian response across Cabo Delgado, with more than 800 aid workers from 59 humanitarian organizations, including international and national NGOs, as well as UN entities, for urgent lifesaving and life-supporting activities. As more people move back to their places of origin, the local economy and services will be an essential aspect to make them feel at home again.
Grounded in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, UNDP’s stabilization interventions are meant to lay the foundations for longer-term governance and poverty reduction programmes aimed at addressing the structural issues which have caused very high levels of poverty. Stabilization is the first critical step on the way to building sustainable peace for the hundreds of thousands like Mendonça, Sete, Catarina.
*IOM, September 2021.