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Displacement leaves its traces on health and nutrition of children in Cabo Delgado

Mossa is the only father in the group. He has come today with his four children: “I wanted to give their mother a break today. We have such a long, dangerous journey behind us, and she is exhausted and sick because of all the worrying for our kids.”

Metuge, Cabo Delgado - An ambulance pulls into the small village of Impire in the district of Metuge in Cabo Delgado where about 30 mothers and one father have gathered with their children in a wooden Pavilion for a medical consultation. Wearing the mandatory facemasks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the parents are patiently waiting for their turn. The integrated mobile health brigade does first a medical check-up with each child, gives medicine when necessary and administers due vaccinations, before weighing and measuring each child to see if there are signs of malnutrition.

Mossa (38) is the only father in the group. He has come today with his four children: “I wanted to give their mother a break today. We have such a long, dangerous journey behind us, and she is exhausted and sick because of all the worrying for our kids.”

The family is among the more than 300,000 people who have fled their homes in Cabo Delgado because of violence. Mossa explains that they first sought refuge on the Island of Quirimba thinking that the sea would protect them, but one day the insurgents also crossed the small channel to the Island and started looting houses and killing people. The sea was rough when Mossa’s family had to escape from the Island again and the father is still terrified because he saw another boat capsizing and its passengers all drowning in the distance that day. “It could have been us but with God’s help we have made it here to the South of the Province where we feel safe living with a friendly family”.

UNICEF Mozambique/2020/Daniel Timme
UNICEF Mozambique/2020/Daniel Timme

A UNICEF supported health brigade in Cabo Delgado has diagnosed moderate acute malnutrition in Nalia (1). Mossa (38) receives therapeutic food (RUSF) to treat his daughter.

Like Mossa’s family, most of the displaced people live in host families. In order to respond to their needs, UNICEF is supporting integrated mobile health and nutrition brigades, professional health workers who travel with ambulances to the most remote communities instead of catering to people in health centers. Amélia Mindu, a nutrition specialist in the brigade says: “many children are in a very bad health condition as they have suffered from three consecutive shocks: cyclone Kenneth, violent attacks and now the economic shock due to COVID-19.”

When it’s finally Mossa’s youngest daughter, Nelia’s turn to get checked, it becomes quickly clear that the double escape of the family has left its traces. The one-year-old is diagnosed suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and needs to be treated with a special therapeutic food on the basis of a peanut paste (RUSF).

Amelia gives Mossa a box of paste packages and shows him how to feed them to little Nalia who seems to like the taste: “If you give her this regularly, she will recover soon. It’s good that we have detected the problem in time before she developed more serious health issues.”