Civilians, especially women and children, are bearing the brunt of mass human rights violations amid a worsening security situation in northern Mozambique, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.

At least 355,000 people have been displaced from the Cabo Delgado province due to violence by armed groups since 2017, according to UN estimates.

Thousands have fled the Muidumbe district in the province just in the last week due to repeated attacks on several villages, said a UNCHR statement.

“There have been horrifying reports of extreme brutality unleashed on civilians by non-state armed groups in the Muidumbe district,” the agency said.

Civilians have faced increasing violence, including brutal attacks and kidnapping, it added.

“Schools, health centers, private houses and government infrastructures have also reportedly been targeted and destroyed,” read the statement.

“Many districts continue to be inaccessible because they are occupied by armed groups or remain at high risk of being attacked. We are concerned that civilians, including the elderly and people with disabilities, remain trapped in those areas.”

According to the agency, over 14,300 people have fled to Paquitequete beach, in Cabo Delgado’s capital Pemba, since mid-October.

“Hundreds are living on the beach in precarious conditions and clean drinking water is the most urgent need. People also face a lack of hygiene and sanitation as well as overcrowding,” the UNCHR said.

The agency said it needs some $19.2 million “to meet the most basic needs of the displaced people,” with only 39% of the financial requirements currently funded.

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