Mozambique (September 1995)
by Humanitarian Practice Network September 1995

UNHCR’s costly (nearly $1.2bn) resettlement assistance to returning refugees has been scaled down over the last 18 months, following the return home of nearly 1.7m refugees from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa and Tanzania. Those choosing to remain in their adopted country hold varying status. Returnees qualify for UN assistance until the first harvest.

Those in receipt of UN food aid total approximately 550,000, most distributed through the Red Cross and World Vision, working with UNHCR and the Government’s Refugee Support Nucleus (NAR).

Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, commented “Mozambique is the living proof that hope is not in vain and that effective and durable solutions to the problems of refugees can be found, if the will – and the funds – exist”.

The largely peaceful election, won by Frelimo – a result broadly speaking accepted by Renamo – and the ensuing peace, have enabled bush clearance and the planting of maize, and the overall food and nutrition status continues to improve throughout the country, due to the relatively good harvest. However, although Mozambique no longer qualifies for an ‘emergency programme’ of relief aid, 1.5m people are still threatened by hunger. WFP estimates that 640,000 people will still be in need of emergency food aid in 1995-96, as well as an additional 130,000 returnees who were unable to sow during the recent planting season.

Despite improvements in the overall food situation, as the rebuilding of the Mozambican economy gets underway, many refugees remain outside the country and others are still leaving for South Africa. A speech made by South African President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the annual heads of state summit of the South African Development Community (SADC) on 28 August, sounded a note of caution in moving too quickly to trade liberalisation, fearing it would draw immigrants from all southern African countries before the country was able to support them.

There is widespread concern that with three-quarters of Mozambique’s income coming from foreign aid, the country has fallen into the dependency trap. But it seems that years of socialism have not quashed a free market spirit amongst Mozambican people, evident as small street enterprises spring up in the towns. 

Earlier, in June, President Chissano spoke on the 20th anniversary of Mozambican independence, calling for a war against one of the country’s major concerns – rapidly growing crime which is an outlet for Mozambican youth now that the Frelimo-Renamo conflict appears to be over. Following the recent signing of Defence Cooperation Accord, Portugal is to provide organisational assistance and training to Mozambican armed forces.

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