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Mozambique: finding good news in the midst of conflict

Don’t worry if you have never heard of Cabo Delgado: most Australians would have trouble finding it on a map. It is one of two northern provinces of Mozambique that share a border with Tanzania, and it has a beautiful coastline of white sand beaches and turquoise blue sea.

Despite its rich natural resources, Cabo Delgado is one of the poorest parts of Mozambique.

Back in March this corner of the world briefly appeared in the news when some foreigners and a major gas exploration were caught in an insurgent attack on the town of Palma. But this was just the latest flashpoint in a conflict that has been going on since 2017, in which between 2000 and 4000 people have been killed, and close to 700,000 displaced.

This is a conflict between Mozambicans that has had some international support. The conflict is complex, but appears to have been fuelled, as many of these conflicts are, by poverty and neglect.

Fleeing violence, people have arrived in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring provinces by whatever means available; often by boat or on foot. They are staying with families that are often already very poor, or setting up in camps for internally displaced people. Having left in a hurry with just what they can carry, they have a desperate need for basics such as shelter, food and safe water. There are more women than men arriving, and the situation is challenging for women and children in the camps. On top of all that, these internally displaced people have had to contend with a cholera outbreak.

Joachim. A self-taught tailor. Mozambiuqe.
Joachim arrived in Metuge camp in March 2020, just as Mozambique was going into COVID-19 lockdown. A self-taught tailor, he soon found himself busy making washable masks for other internally displaced people. He counts himself lucky that on busy days he has something to keep him from thinking about the home he left behind.

Tearfund Australia has been following the progress of the conflict for some time now, looking for opportunities to respond and support internally displaced people. In late 2020 this came in the form of a collaboration with Tearfund UK and Integral Alliance member Food for the Hungry. Working with these organisations, we have been able to provide some food and hygiene support for about 600 internally displaced families. The Tearfund UK team recently visited Cabo Delgado to see the impact of the relief so far and get a better sense of what else is needed.

What they found is great, great need, but also hope. People are incredibly resilient, and although they have been through a lot and lost everything, they are finding ways to keep going. In the midst of a cholera outbreak, the hygiene materials have been a great relief. Even a sturdy bucket with a lid to keep water clean is making a big difference!

Rosa. Mozambique.
Rosa* and her five children walked the 75 kilometres to Metuge where Tearfund UK and Food for the Hungry have been working.

Rosa* lost her husband after he was badly beaten during an insurgent attack. She and her five children walked the 75 kilometres to Metuge where Tearfund UK and Food for the Hungry have been working. As a widow she has found it very difficult in the camp, but she has managed to build a shelter for herself and her children. She has also connected with other women in similar situations who provide emotional and physical support to one another, such as a safe space to process their grief, sharing their meagre rations and even a spot of childcare.

People in Cabo Delgado who have been displaced by this long conflict are doing the best they can, looking out for one another, and making their own good news stories where they can. Tearfund Australia is committed to finding ways to continue to support them, and along with local Christian partners will embark on a project that will support people while they find their feet and begin to build a new life. And that really will be a good news story.

Tearfund Australia is a member of Integral, an alliance of Christian relief and development agencies responding to emergency situations around the world. See

* Name changed

Jenny Beechey is the International Programs Officer, Africa for Tearfund Australia.