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/ 11 December 2020


Revd Sheenagh Burrell, ALMA Co ordinator, gives an update about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado.

As we journey through Advent our eyes and hearts are drawn to two journeys: that of Mary and Joseph on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem at a time not of their choosing, and their later journey to Eqypt with their infant son – now as a family in peril, fleeing from danger. This second journey is one that resonates deeply in the Northernmost Province of Mozambique, where people are also fleeing for their lives.

Cabo Delgado, with a population of 2.5 million people, is just a little smaller than the whole island of Ireland (82,625 sqkms vs 84,421sqkms). It is predominantly an agricultural region, with recent huge coal and gas discoveries, that has been subject to a sporadic but intensifying conflict since 2017. This Insurgency is linked to Islamic extremist groups but there are many complex local drivers and accelerators too.

Our ALMA Partner Bishop Manuel Ernesto, Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Nampula, says this was a region where Muslims and Christians had lived side by side for generations but that factors including extreme poverty, neglect, youth unemployment, discontent fuelled by land grabs for new industrial and mining developments, new jobs going to outsiders, and infiltration by extremists are changing this. This last year has seen whole villages burnt down, people beheaded, 2,193 people killed (ACCLED Oct 20), and orphaned children living alone in the bush.  The strategic town of Mocimboa da Praia, near the natural gas projects, was occupied by IS in August. In October 219 boats carrying 11,280, mostly women and children, arrived in Pemba (twinned with Teddington).

The impact of these violent attacks has been devastating: 20% of the population, some 500,000 people, have fled for their lives, arriving in towns further south like Pemba and Nampula with absolutely nothing. Bishop Manuel Ernesto has seen daily life turned upside down in the 18 months since the Diocese was founded: first by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019, by Covid-19 and by this Cabo Delgado conflict and IDP crisis. Some IDPs are given places in camps like Namialo, below, with 20-40 people in each tent, but many others are with family members further south in increasingly crowded homes, or on the street. Bishop Manuel shares:

‘The situation is getting worse and worse. Numbers are larger than the official figures and security on the ground is deteriorating every day. We are fortunate to have good relationships with Muslim leaders- we know each other.  But now people are taking sides, as groups from other regions are affecting local relationships. We are a place of diverse cultures, but this is changing. Young people travel from Saudi Arabia, and are now starting to pick fights with the elders- they have no access to our usual leadership structures’

He asks for our prayers for:

  1. Peace in Northern Mozambique
  2. Families- structural challenge – survival – the need to hear their stories and their trauma.
  3. Children are being radicalised.  Young people are angry. Armed groups
  4. Church pray for good teaching + catechists
  5. Relationships with Muslims, that they will not be affected.
  6. The humanitarian situation. We receive many people knocking on doors asking for support. We are always surrounded by hundreds of children, looking at their faces, trying to cope with this situation. (UNICEF estimated 712,000 people are in need)
  7. Take Cabo seriously – this is vital or the whole region in Southern Africa will suffer. What is the role of the gas companies in London? What is the impact of the Arms trade? This is a political and economic issue too.
  8. For Christian young people tempted to fight back

How might we support:

ALMA is going to support a Diocese of Nampula Project to reach out to the IDPs in their midst and will give the £7,505 to set this up. Muassite Miguel, Nampula Mission Co-ordinator, who spoke on ALMA Sunday 2019 in St Paul’s Cathedral, will be heading this up. Thank you to all the ALMA supporters who give to our General Fund which makes such an immediate response possible


Further Reading

ALMA Autumn Newsletter

ALMA Twitter Feed: @ALMALondonD & ALMA Facebook Page: ALMA London have regular updates.


ACCLED especially weekly Cabo Ligado newsletter updates on insurgency activity and impact on community.

World Food Programme and their October 2020 Country Brief


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About Sheenagh Burrell

Sheenagh Burrell is the ALMA Co-ordinator.

Read more from Sheenagh Burrell

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