YAOUNDE, Cameroon

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a humanitarian appeal late on Thursday for $12 million against deteriorating health and safety conditions for women and girls in northeastern Mozambique.

In a statement, the UN agency said it urgently needed to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health and protection services to 330,000 women, girls, and young people impacted by the humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado province, as well as by the secondary impacts of novel coronavirus pandemic.

An armed militant group believed to be affiliated to the Daesh/ISIS terrorist organization has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities, and capturing towns.

The group is locally known as al-Shabaab, but with no established links to the armed militant group of the same name in Somalia. It says it wants to establish a so-called “Islamic caliphate” in northern Mozambique, where it has exploited people’s desperate poverty and unemployment to recruit in large numbers.

The agency also urged the international community to increase funding as women, girls, and young people face increased risk of gender-based violence.

“Cabo Delgado is experiencing the perfect storm of conflict, cyclones, COVID-19, and cholera – and women and girls are bearing the highest brunt of these crises. They continue to be on the move, with many having to flee their homes at moments’ notice without any personal items or access to services to look after their health, hygiene, or safety,” noted Andrea M. Wojnar, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Mozambique.

“Even before the current crisis, Cabo Delgado’s women and girls were highly vulnerable, with just one in five girls married or in a union using contraceptives – one of the lowest in Mozambique.

“The province also has the highest pregnancy rate among adolescents aged 15-19 years and the second-highest rate of child marriage in the country,” added Wojnar.

Violence and lack of health care has internally displaced more than 669,000 people as of Feb. 10, 2021, including some 160,000 women of reproductive age who could face unwanted pregnancies and increased risk of HIV and sexually transmitted disease without family planning support, according to the IOM.

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