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MAPUTO, Mozambique—Almost three quarters of a million people had been displaced internally in the northern provinces of Mozambique by April this year, due to violence or environmental disasters, including the devastating Cyclone Kenneth in 2019. UNFPA has been working with local authorities and partners to increase the availability of, and access to, life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, as well as to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. The agency also provides support to address the effects of COVID-19, by mitigating the pandemic's impact on women and girls in particular. 

The province of Cabo Delgado has experienced compounded crises of conflict, cyclones, COVID-19 and cholera. Shoko Arakaki, Director of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Office, paid a recent visit to the province to view the interventions that UNFPA supports to promote behaviour change among adolescents and young people, while ensuring that the necessary aid reaches the most vulnerable populations. She met the Governor, Valige Tauabo. 

In spite of the significant challenges faced, the impact of UNFPA’s efforts can be seen and felt on the ground.

In Metuge district, more than 125,000 displaced people  double the local population  are being sheltered in displacement sites or with host communities. Because 50 per cent of maternal mortalities occur during humanitarian crises, it is crucial for women and girls that reproductive health services are available. UNFPA works with the provincial health authorities to ensure that life-saving equipment and commodities remain accessible during such times of crisis.

A young mother receives essential items for herself and her new baby from ​​​​UNFPA Humanitarian Director, Shoko Arakaki, and UNFPA Country Representative, Andrea Wojnar. © Mbuto Machili/UNFPA Mozambique

While in the district, Ms. Arakaki visited the Metuge health facility, where she provided two new mothers with 'mama kits' containing essential items such as soap, sanitary pads, an infant bathtub, and water buckets for their health and hygiene needs.

Several of the new mothers Ms. Arakaki encountered were just fourteen years old, a reminder that gender equality and girls' sexual and reproductive rights are especially crucial during humanitarian crises. To support girls in similar situations, and to mitigate harmful practices faced by displaced women and girls, UNFPA supports the Government of Mozambique and civil society partners with establishing and maintaining women-friendly spaces in several districts of Cabo Delgado. 

In these safe spaces, women can participate in stress-relieving and income-generating activities, and often they take part in awareness sessions on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and COVID-19 awareness. Accompanied by UNFPA Representative in Mozambique, Andrea M. Wojnar, Ms. Arakaki visited a women-friendly space in Ngalane village, Metuge district. Here, the women take part in sewing and agro-processing classes, in which they produce items such as face masks and nutritious banana chips, enabling them to generate an income.

A woman shows off one of the face masks she has made at a women-friendly space. © Mbuto Machili/UNFPA Mozambique

In a country facing conflict, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and food insecurity, multi-sectoral efforts are critical to enable the achievement of UNFPA's three transformative goals: zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal death, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. In the capital city of Maputo, the Humanitarian Director met key UNFPA partners, including the President of the National‌ ‌Institute‌ ‌of‌ ‌Disaster‌ ‌Management‌ ‌and‌ ‌Risk‌ ‌Reduction, development partners, and the United Nations Country Team, to reiterate UNFPA's commitment to achieving the three transformative goals in Mozambique by focusing on women and girls and working across the triple nexus, from the humanitarian response to resilience building.

“In spite of the significant challenges faced, the impact of UNFPA’s efforts can be seen and felt on the ground,” said Ms. Arakaki. She urged the UNFPA Mozambique team to continue to find innovative ways to provide relief to those affected by humanitarian crises, by remaining accountable to the affected populations and empowering women and youth-led local organizations.