“I will produce my cassava again.”

UN Development Programme
4 min readOct 12, 2021
Mendonça João, 25, lost her home after her village was attacked by armed groups in Macomia, Mozambique. Photo: UNDP/Brenda Hada

Mendonça João, 25, has experienced the horrors of the armed conflict and the violence in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique. During attacks on her village by armed groups, her home was burned down.

“We stayed here, in this same district of Macomia since the beginning and throughout the conflict and we never left. At this moment, there are lots of people in this village, but what happened was that, during the attacks, we fled into the woods and stayed there for six days without water or food. To this day, we’re still here and we haven’t gone anywhere,” she says.

Life has been very difficult, defined by constant fear, no basic services and the complete lack of resources, which prompted most residents to leave in search of safety, shelter, food and water

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 744,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

To respond to the urgent needs of both displaced families and host communities, the international community has launched a large-scale humanitarian response across Cabo Delgado, with more than 800 aid workers from 59 humanitarian organizations. As more people move back to their homes, the local economy and services will be essential.

Mendonça continues rebuilding her life as others, some of whom have been away for as long as two years, slowly start to return.

Children sit in front of a school yet to be rehabilitated, in Macomia, Mozambique. Photo: UNDP/Brenda Hada

But the people of Cabo Delgado are returning to areas where all infrastructure was destroyed, including buildings which were damaged by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019, and where basic public services have yet to resume

In areas that were liberated by government forces, the key challenge is to reestablish basic social services such as health, education, and to enable people to get back to a normal life as quickly as possible.

UNDP’s Stabilization Programme builds on the understanding that rapidly rehabilitating infrastructure and providing jobs, as well as fostering the social cohesion that will lay the foundation for more long-term development.

UNDP supports local governments as they rebuild public buildings such as schools, and hospitals, and undertakes repairs to infrastructure so that streets, lights and roads are in working order.

Local residents are recruited for the work so families have income at the same time as they revitalize their community.

Recovery work takes place at the Macomia Health Center. Reconstruction and cash-for-work activities are in place to help reestablish basic health services. Photo: UNDP/Brenda Hada

UNDP is also working to ensure that all interventions are gender sensitive and that women are supported in non-traditional activities such as painting buildings and engaging in small businesses. Female headed households also get unconditional cash transfers.

Sete Mascote, another survivor of the conflict in Macomia, is glad to have a job that will erase the marks of destruction in his community where all houses were burned and they had nothing to eat and no clothing

“There were five attacks in the locality and not all residents returned home. But at least for us who are living here, we are already working,” he said.

The community rebuilds under a UNDP cash-for-work programme, in Macomia, Mozambique. Photo: UNDP/Brenda Hada

Around 700 vulnerable people half of them women have cleared roads, painted schools and repaired water points. These immediate economic activities are expanding in the short term to reach about 2,000 heads of households in other villages of Macomia and Quissanga districts.

Cleanup and minor repairs are underway at the Macomia Health Center. Repairs to the generator will mean mothers in the maternity ward do not have to give birth in darkness.

The Macomia Health Center remains in need of repair, as of September 2021. Photo: UNDP/Brenda Hada

“There is great value in this activity that we do, because we are putting the area of our hospital with good visibility and hygiene. We hope that our hospital will have the same conditions as before,” says Catarina Falume, who says the work is helping her family to become more financially stable.

Grounded in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, UNDP’s stabilization interventions are meant to lay the foundations for longer-term governance and poverty reduction programmes aimed at addressing the structural issues which have caused very high levels of poverty. Stabilization is the first critical step to building sustainable peace for the hundreds of thousands like Mendonça, Sete and Catarina so they can begin to look to the future.

“When this activity ends, I will produce my cassava again. Because at the end of this activity, I will have some money in my hands,” Catarina says.