At least 400,000 people have fled militant attacks in northern Mozambique, the United Nations refugee agency said, warning that the crisis could quickly spread beyond the country’s borders if regional neighbors did not help tackle the insurgency.
Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to gas developments worth some $60 billion, is grappling with an insurgency linked to Islamic State that has gathered pace this year, with insurgents regularly taking on the army and seizing entire towns.
Valentin Tapsoba, the southern African head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said families who were rebuilding their lives after the destruction caused by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019 have had to flee from militant attacks.
“This is a situation starting in one country but if all the countries don’t get their act together to tackle it and wait too long, it could spread within the sub-region,” Tapsoba told Reuters by phone from Pempa in Mozambique.
Zimbabwe presidential spokesman George Charamba said leaders from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, and Tanzania were set to meet in Maputo on Monday over the insurgency.
Tapsoba said 424,000 people have fled the insurgency to Niassa, Nampula, and Pempa and that the number could rise. He said Mozambican authorities put the figure at 570,000.