MOZAMBIQUE: ‘Hunger, thirst and disease will soon follow’

An IDP camp in Pemba Diocese, northern Mozambique. (© Johan Viljoen)
An IDP camp in Pemba Diocese, northern Mozambique. (© Johan Viljoen)

The misery caused by jihadist insurgency in northern Mozambique is unprecedented – but the situation may deteriorate even further, according to a local bishop.

Bishop António Juliasse of Pemba Diocese told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that militant groups affiliated with Daesh (ISIS) have raided more than 12 villages, causing the population to flee to cities in search of safety.

Bishop Juliasse said that “around a dozen villages, some of them heavily populated, were targeted” and “all the Christian chapels were destroyed”.

He added that the worst attack took place in “Mazeze, in the administrative posts of the district of Chiúre, where many state owned public and social infrastructures were destroyed.

“Our mission, which provided so much support in the region was also destroyed.”

The bishop explained that his priority has been to provide shelter and support for internally displaced people (IDPs).

He said: “They are fleeing from villages that have been reduced to ashes, and those whose villages might be next in line are also running…

“They are searching for a safe space – I don’t know where they will find it.

“Perhaps they will have to settle for the least unsafe.”

He highlighted that the worst might be yet to come for those who have fled their homes, saying: “They carry only what they can, in a bundle on their heads, or on the family bicycle –

that’s all they have left.

“Hunger, thirst and disease will soon follow.”

Christians are a minority in predominantly Muslim northern Mozambique, but the two communities have historically coexisted peacefully until the armed insurgency broke out in 2017.

Extremist groups tend to target civilian and state-owned institutions, but attacks on specifically Christian communities have also been reported – including the murder of an Italian religious Sister in 2022.

About 5,000 people have been killed and 1 million displaced as a result of the conflict, according to the latest – but likely already outdated – figures.

Bishop Juliasse said that the terrorists’ ultimate goal is unclear, but their methods have become more brutal as their influence has increased.

He added that there is a great risk that those suffering because of the insurgency will “become forgotten faces, drowned out by the other wars in the world.

“We cannot just sit by and do nothing.”

The Catholic Church has supported IDPs in Mozambique and worked towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Bishop Juliasse has requested all missionaries to accompany those fleeing and help them in any way they can.

The bishop said Pope Francis’s prayers for peace in Mozambique on Sunday 18th February had “a healing effect” on his community and “gave [them] immediate relief and comfort”.

ACN’s support in Mozambique has included pastoral assistance and counselling for IDPs, as well as vehicles for missionaries and the construction of dozens of homes and community centres.


With thanks to Filipe d’Avillez