The struggle of women amid civil war, droughts and floods in Mozambique

Fellows 2017

By Andrew Mambondiyani

May 22, 2017

Also published by PAMACC

ESPUNGABERA, Mozambique - Samere Mashava could not hide his anger and frustration as he narrates how his wife fled from their village in Mozambique’s Espungabera area near the border with Zimbabwe.

Mashava’s wife is one of the many women in this part of Mozambique who were forced to flee their homes as a result of the bloody civil conflict in the country.

In small remote villages in Espungabera area, homes were burned down; livestock were taken by armed men believed to be from Mozambican National Resistance Army (Renamo), a militant organisation and political movement founded in 1975.

It is led by Afonso Dhlakama.

The civil war in Mozambique has been on and off since 2013 after the collapse of the 1992 peace agreement. The agreement brought peace to the country after nearly two decades of civil war.

“My wife and many other people disappeared when our village was attacked in October last year. I was not in the village when armed men ravaged the village. I don’t know where my wife was,” Mashava said.

“I have tried to look for her to not avail. I have gone to a radio station Espungabera so that they can broadcast that I am looking for her. I am calling for those fighting in the war to stop and discuss whatever problems they have. This war has affected many people and we are suffering,” he said.

Mashava was worried that since she disappeared at the height of the severe drought and food shortages which hit Mozambique and some parts of the Southern African, she could have died of hunger.

“She disappeared with nothing. And there was a serious drought in Zimbabwe where she could seek refuge. And still the serious floods which affected this area early this year could have affected heralot, assuming she survived the drought,” Mashava said, almost choking with tears.

The civil war in Mozambique coupled with severe droughts and floods have become the major drivers of the crisis facing women in the country; sparking food insecurity, destroying assets and leaving households without income or means to access food.
Mozambique is one the poorest countries in the world and is prone to flooding and storms. In 2000, floods killed more than 800 people and more than 100 were killed in 2015.

The country has also faced serious climate change induced droughts.

A tropical cyclone, Dineo, battered some parts of the country in February this year, making life even harder for people displaced by the civil war.  Cyclone Dineo killed seven people, injured more than 50 and displaced over 100 000 people.

Women who are actively involved in subsistence farming in Mozambique, and sourcing food for the families have been greatly affected by the combination of war and climate change induced calamities.

Some people from Mozambique have fled into Zimbabwe where some have sought refuge at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge district, near the border with Mozambique.

And at Tongogara Refugee Camp, conditions are not any better. A young girl at the refugee camp, hardly, 10years with her young sister on her back could be seen staring blankly in the distance.

A group of other children were playing excitedlyon the nearby dirty road. Though expressionless, the young girl tried to mask the trauma of surviving a civil war in Mozambique, a war which has forced thousands of people, mostly women and children to flee their homes. 

The civil war has brought untold suffering to thousands of women who are trying to scrounge for food in a difficult environment.
And when Anna Mugadhuya’s children got sick while fleeing from war in Mozambique she was helpless.

She had no medicine or food; neither did she have warm clothes to protect the children from the harsh weatherconditions.
Mugadhuya is one of the many women displaced from Mozambique as a result of the current civil conflict.

Mugadhuya and her four minor children fled from Chingowe Village, in Mozambique in October last year. After days of travel they arrived in Zimbabwe in November and resettled along the border area.

She, with other refugees did not have food and shelter and spent days in an open area, expose to the heavy rains which hit the Zimbabwe at the onset of the rain season. The refugees left Mozambique with nothing, following attacks on their villages.

More than 800 refugees were later taken to Tongogara Refugee Camp in December last year.

“My children good sick and we thank God that we did not lose them. The journey from Mozambique was really tough for us as we watch our children exposed to the harsh weather with no warm clothes or any shelter,” said Mugadhuya in an interview at Tongogara Refugee Camp.

“We had been affected by the drought and when our village was burned down we lost everything. The armed men took our livestock too. We did not have any chance to leave even with a few belongings we had”.

Mugadhuya was not sure whether she will be able to get her land back after the war.
“We fear that some people might take over our land in Mozambique while we are living as refugees in Zimbabwe. We are not sure whether we will get our land back”.

According to the Tongogara Refugee Camp Administrator, Meshack Zengeya, Cyclone Dineo induced floods which hit the country in February this year affected the camp, destroying more than 150 houses. Some of the houses at the refugee camp are poorly built and could not stand the floods.

“We had to shift all the refugees to a higher land, the houses are not strong at all, they are built using mud,” Zengeya said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has since donated 177 new tents for shelter.
However, more than 5 000 Mozambique refugees are reportedly living in Zimbabwe along the border area, and they are praying hard for a long term peace resolution in their country.

Prosper Mutseyami, who is the legislator for Musikavanhu, a constituency along the border in Zimbabwe said there were still refugees in the constituency.

“It (civil war) was a serious problem but nowadays it’s calm but we still have refugees in Wards 23 and 25,” Mutseyami said.