NEW YORK, MARCH 31, 2021—Sylvie Kaczmarczyk, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency coordinator, gave the following statement today regarding recent violence in the city of Palma in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The hundreds of people who fled Palma due to these attacks join approximately 670,000 more who have been forced from their homes by conflict since 2017 and are already vulnerable and in need of medical care.
On Monday, March 29, a team from MSF arrived in the Afungi peninsula—about 25 kilometers [15 miles] from Palma town—where some of the injured are arriving and people are seeking refuge. MSF’s objective is to provide medical assistance, stabilize patients, and ensure the ones with critical medical conditions get evacuated. Our primary goal is to save lives.
Since the violent attacks began last Wednesday, hundreds of people have come to Afungi in search of safety, most after fleeing by foot and hiding in the bush for days. We hear repeatedly that all they want is to leave. They are terrified. Most are in shock and are dehydrated and hungry. We have seen everything: people with minor to moderate injuries, as well as people in critical condition with serious, life-threatening injuries.
Children are among those who have fled. We have cared for one baby with a bullet wound. Pregnant women are also coming in terrible condition. One woman—who appeared to be seven months pregnant—had intense bleeding. Her baby had already died. Mothers arrived with their newborns, some only a day old, delivered in very difficult conditions. Most mothers seen by the team were in shock, dehydrated, and hadn’t eaten for hours. Therefore, they were not able to feed their babies. It is a heartbreaking situation.
Before the attacks, Palma had an estimated population of tens of thousands, including people that had already been displaced by fighting in previous months. Many of them have now reportedly fled away from the town in different directions. Some have taken boats towards the south, others have gone inland through the bush or to the border with Tanzania, and many seem to still be hiding in the outskirts of Palma.
In parallel to the work our team is doing in Afungi, other MSF teams in Mueda, Nangade, Montepuez, Pemba, and Macomia are prepared to support the medical and humanitarian needs of people fleeing from Palma. They have seen, for the moment, just a few hundred people arriving to places like Mueda and Montepuez in the last days. Some present mild sickness, muscle pain, and small injuries as a result of walking for many hours, as the journey from Palma through the bush can take several days with little to no access to water or food.
Our teams are working to ascertain where significant groups of people fleeing Palma are currently and where they will be heading to in order to adapt our response and provide medical and humanitarian assistance when feasible.