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PEMBA, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique—“I came with nothing. Nothing at all,” said Amina Daúde, 25, who travelled by boat to Pemba with her husband and three children to flee the escalating violence in northern Mozambique.

During two weeks in October last year, more than 10,000 people, of whom more than half were women and children, fled to Pemba in about 200 boats to escape the violence in the northern districts. Women reportedly gave birth in boats during these perilous sea journeys, which can take up to two days.

I came with nothing. Nothing at all.

They landed on Paquetequete beach amid a small fishing community of 22,000 people in the city of Pemba, which has nearly tripled in size, putting a strain on available social and health services.

To date, an estimated 530,000 people have been displaced from Cabo Delgado.

Upon arrival at Paquetequete beach, Ms. Daúde received a dignity kit from UNFPA. “Life is the most valuable thing I have at this moment. The dignity kit that I received from UNFPA greatly complements it,” she said. 

Awaiting new arrivals on Paquetequete beach, Pemba. In October last year, more than 10,000 people displaced by the conflict in Cabo Delgado arrived in 200 boats in two weeks. Pregnant women reportedly gave birth in boats during this arduous journey. © UNFPA Mozambique/Alex Muianga

Ensuring feminine hygiene and dignity

Like Ms. Daúde, many other women and girls fled their homes at short notice, leaving everything behind. They struggle to take adequate care of their personal health and feminine hygiene as a result.

UNFPA is providing on-the-ground support through the Provincial and District Government by distributing female dignity kits and providing psychosocial counselling and support to displaced women and girls. The kits contain feminine hygiene items such as soap, reusable menstrual pads, capulanas (traditional cloths) and underwear.

Now, my dignity is recovered as I'll be able to have my menstrual hygiene relaxed.

“Now, my dignity is recovered as I'll be able to have my menstrual hygiene relaxed. I'll be able to wear the capulanas and cover myself, as well as wear the masks for prevention and control of COVID-19," Ms. Daúde said.

Dignity kits also contain items to help women and girls mitigate their risk of gender-based violence, including a flashlight and whistle, and information on where and how to access services. As part of the distribution, UNFPA worked with the government and social activists to educate women and girls about COVID-19 and how to avoid transmission and infection, while also distributing reusable face masks.

UNFPA provides female dignity kits to newly-arrived displaced women and girls on Paquetequete beach, Pemba. © UNFPA Mozambique/Alex Muianga

Supporting women and girls during the crises

During conflicts, natural disasters, and public health emergencies, sexual and reproductive health needs are often overlooked – and with staggering consequences. Women and girls pay a high price in a crisis, facing increased risks of gender-based violence, unintended pregnancies, and preventable maternal death due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.

In 2020, with funding from government donors (including Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom, Korea, China and the Netherlands) as well as from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF, OCHA) and UNFPA’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF), UNFPA supported provincial governments in Sofala, Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces to install tents at health units and hospitals impacted by the conflict and natural disasters. The tents have supported tens of thousands of women and girls, and have been crucial for COVID-19 prevention.

To protect front-line health workers and ensuring continuity of services, UNFPA worked with partners to procure and distribute personal protective equipment for staff, deliver essential medicines to avoid stock-outs, procure ambulance boats and train service providers on how to respond to an increase in violence, through providing psychosocial support and alternative sexual and reproductive care.

Led by the Ministry of Health, UNFPA supported the deployment of mobile health clinics to deliver sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention and response services to displaced and vulnerable women and girls living in hard-to-reach areas.

From Cabo Delgado to Nampula provinces, the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and CERF, OCHA and UNFPA’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF), have supported mobile health teams to provide women and girls with services, including ante-natal care and contraceptives. Recognizing the increased risk of insecurity, the trained clinicians in the mobile teams have also provided information, counselling and referrals for people experiencing violence.

By the end of December, mobile clinics provided remote-based care to 79,000 women and girls in Sofala and Cabo Delgado. These mobile clinics ensure that the most vulnerable - who may otherwise not have direct access to health centees - get life-saving health and protection support when they need it most.

In Cabo Delgado and Tete provinces, the MyChoice project, funded by the Netherlands government, trained mentors and activists to support 26,000 girls and young women (aged 10 to 24) with counselling and information on family planning. In 2020, mentors and focal points responded to the pandemic by delivering their educational and counselling sessions via community radio, one-on-one distanced sessions, or by telephone.

UNFPA Mozambique Fact Sheet for the Northern Province Humanitarian Crisis