Mozambique: “We cared for a baby with a bullet wound”

07 Apr 2021

MSF teams have mobilised to provide medical assistance to people fleeing intense violence in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Since attacks began March, hundreds of people have fled the coastal city of Palma to nearby towns in search of safety - most fleeing by foot and hiding in the bush for days.

“We have seen everything: people with minor to moderate injuries, as well as in critical condition with serious, life-threatening injuries,” explains MSF Emergency Coordinator Sylvie Kaczmarczyk.
"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."

“They are terrified. Most are in shock and are dehydrated and hungry.” - MSF Emergency Coordinator Sylvie Kaczmarczyk.

"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 heart-breaking situation,“ said Sylvie Kaczmarczyk.
Amparo Vilasmil is MSF mental health activity manager in based in Montepuez, the second most populous city in the province and one of the destinations for people fleeing recent attacks in the coastal town of Palma.
“MSF has been running a medical project in Montepuez since November 2020. Over the last year the number of people forced to flee here has increased exponentially because of the crisis. There are currently around 50,000 people living either in camps or in the host community,” Amparo Vilasmil explains.


Fleeing violence

The conflict between the army and non-state armed groups in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique has been ongoing since 2017 and intensified over the last year. Over 670,000 people have been so far displaced by the violence, according to UN OCHA.

“As soon as the magnitude of the attacks in Palma became clearer, MSF teams across Cabo Delgado, including Montepuez, started preparing for a possible new wave of arrivals. In the last few days of March, around 400 people have reached Montepuez, more than a third of them children. The ones arriving say many others are on their way.

“Displaced people arrive in Montepuez agitated and overwhelmed by what they have seen. They cry while speaking about their situation. ‘They killed lots of people, they killed Palma,’ one person told me. They ran into the bush to save their lives and walked all day and night for four or five days. 

“Many have seen dead bodies along the way; people who have died from hunger or dehydration.” - Amparo Vilasmil

“The only water available was from a single dirty river. People usually followed the main roads, but sleep well inside the forests for protection, avoiding villages and surviving on what little they can find.
“One of the first main towns they reached is Nangade, 130 kilometres inland away from Palma. From there, the lucky ones who can get money from relatives jump on vehicles and go further to Mueda, a mountainous town controlled by the military, and others continue further south to Montepuez.
“MSF is concerned for those who don’t have families to help them pay for transportation as this means they are still walking, without access to food and water. These ones will likely arrive in an even worse condition.

MSF mental health activities include conversation circles.

“We are working very hard to identify the routes that people fleeing Palma are taking and where they are going to, in order to adapt our response.” 

“We have positioned a team at each of the entry points into Montepuez to provide mental health support as soon as people get here. We help them to cope with their traumatic experiences and to be able to move forward in their journey.
“In the camps around Montepuez, there are a lot of people who were separated from their families during previous attacks in Cabo Delgado. And now they have lost all contact with each other. They don’t know where they are or if they are safe, and this causes them a great deal of anxiety and stress,” said Amparo Vilasmil.
As well as in Montepuez, MSF teams are meeting the medical and humanitarian needs of people fleeing from Palma in Mueda, Nangade, Pemba,  Macomia and Afungi Peninsula.
MSF’s objective is to provide medical assistance, stabilise patients and ensure the ones in critical medical conditions get evacuated. Our primary goal is to save lives.