Agnes Aineah (ACI Africa) reports:

Plans are underway to construct houses for victims of terror attacks in Northern Mozambique who are currently being hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula in the Southern African country.

An official of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) told ACI Africa that most materials required for the construction of the 200 houses have already been purchased and that the construction will kick off this month.

“In one or two weeks, we should already start building the 200 houses for the thousands of people who are being hosted by the Archdiocese. At the moment, they are living in tents,” the DHPI official who preferred to remain anonymous “for her own security” said in the Friday, May 7 interview with ACI Africa.

The houses, the DHPI volunteer said, will be constructed in Corrane, one of the IDP shelters in Nampula that the Catholic Archdiocese is in charge of, in partnership with international organizations.

The housing project targets 200 families of about 3,170 people, most of them who recently fled from the March attack in Palma. The elderly people, families headed by women and those headed by children among the IDPs will be given priority in the housing project. “We have identified the most vulnerable groups among the IDPs including elderly people aged above 60 as well as women left to head their families after their husbands were killed. This are groups that will occupy the houses first as we proceed with the project,” she said, and added, “Initially, we had included children-headed families but in Corrane, we don’t have such families just yet.”

Displaced people are still coming from to Corrane despite reports that residents of Cabo Delgado are experiencing an atmosphere of peace. “Local media here report that the fighting in the North has stopped. But we can see people still coming to Nampula seeking refuge. Either there is still fighting in the North or people are just worried that more attacks could be on the way,” the DHPI official said.

DHPI Director Johan Viljoen informed ACI Africa that on the evening of 23 April, an attack believed by sources on the ground to have been perpetrated by insurgents resulted in at least five civilian deaths and seven homes burned in Palma’s Expansão neighborhood. “Civilians in the town reported hearing heavy gunfire and explosions,” Mr. Viljoen said. He added, “Many people who had been staying in the town fled, heading North towards Tanzania in hopes of being transported to the Negomano border post in Mueda district, from which they can travel to Mueda town or Pemba. Others joined the over 20,000 displaced people still stranded at Quitunda, from which there is little hope of evacuation in the near term.”

The DHPI official on the ground said that many displaced people coming to Nampula from Palma especially fear that attacks may spike up after Ramadan.

Mr. Viljoen reiterates messages by analysts of insurgency in Mozambique saying, “Following the model of attacks and occupation of Mocímboa da Praia (a town in Cabo Delgado), the insurgents are now trying to clear the population from Palma in advance of an attack expected soon after the end of Ramadan on May 12.” According to the analysts’ report, everyone wants to flee, but the Mozambican government is not letting anyone leave.

“Effectively they are keeping up to 20,000 people hostage to try to forestall the next insurgent attack,” reads the report that Mr. Viljoen shared with ACI Africa, adding, “The people are now sick and hungry, as no international humanitarian aid is permitted.”

Further, reports indicate that roads out of Palma are closed and road traffic has been stopped in Palma itself, “which is largely a ghost town.”

Meanwhile, the DHPI official, said that progress has been made in recruiting officials of the office that will be in charge of various projects for IDPs in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula. “One of my biggest roles in the Diocese of Pemba and the Archdiocese of Nampula, especially in Nampula, is to establish a strong Caritas office. When I came, there was only a Director and some volunteers. So far, we have made a huge step in building a strong Caritas team,” she tells ACI Africa.

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