UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Leanne Manas visits Mozambique to bring attention to the "forgotten crisis" in the region
Accompanied by the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in a week-long visit, Leanne Manas reported on the devastating impact of conflict and climate change in the northern provinces of Nampula and the border of Cabo Delgado.
Manas met with refugees and displaced families in several settlements to listen to their stories and understand their everyday realities.
“The internally displaced families I have met in Corrane settlement speak to a real worry for the country,” she says. “The first internally displaced person I met was a young girl no older than three years of age. Normally, I can make a child smile with funny faces or some sort of interaction to get an emotion out of them, but this little girl didn’t respond at all.
“Children should be playing, smiling, and full of life. Instead, they are traumatized and are suffering. They need support, they are living in situations that no children should be living in.”
Mozambique currently hosts more than 29,000 refugees and asylum seekers, while nearly one million people are internally displaced due to ongoing brutal attacks by non-state armed groups in the Cabo Delgado province since 2017.
Leanne also visited displaced families who had recently arrived in Namapa, a city in Nampula province at the border with Cabo Delgado province.
“The stories displaced women and men have shared with me are horrific. They experienced relentless traumatic events - including beheadings, rape, and gruesome violence. I realize the emotional and psychological damage is massive.”
“The stories displaced women and men have shared with me are horrific."
In Maratane refugee settlement, which hosts over 9,000 refugees, and is located approximately 20 kilometres from Nampula city, she was inspired by how the refugees and host community are fostering a shared sense of belonging.
“What really stands out for me is that the refugees and the host community in Maratane have created a wonderful community,” she says. “There’s a school that hosts both refugees and local children. Refugees are being supported by the Government of Mozambique, UNHCR and partners to become self-reliant – they are running small businesses, and they’ve managed to rebuild their lives,”
While there is hope to find lasting solutions, as this conflict rages on, the displaced and host communities are the ones suffering and require greater support – resources and supplies, food, mats, cooking utensils. “I have seen how UNHCR has provided critical relief including protection, gender-based violence response and prevention, shelter, household items, among others. But there is a great need for more – and I fear what will happen to these communities if they don’t get the assistance that they need,” Leanne laments.
Impact of climate change
What adds to the complexity of the conflict in the northern part of the country is the harsh impact of climate disasters on the lives of Mozambicans.
“It hit me quite hard to see the devastating effects of cyclones and tropical storms that regularly strike Mozambique,” she says. “We hear about climate change, read about it, and even experience it through the different weather patterns but to see the impact of climate change destruction up close is intense.
“Roads and infrastructure have been destroyed, and in the refugee and settlements for the internally displaced, I saw homes that had been severely damaged and classrooms that had been destroyed by Cyclone Gombe last March.
“While it was heartwarming to see that UNHCR has supported some families in rebuilding their homes, many families need more support and are unable to regain what they lost because of lack of resources.”
Drawing awareness to forced displacement in the Southern Africa region remains at the heart of Leanne Manas’ work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She first joined UNHCR in 2017 as UNHCR’s LuQuLuQu High-Level Influencer and has since championed the movement’s purpose to change the narrative of Africa’s forcibly displaced by visiting refugee camps and settlements, supporting a number of UNHCR campaigns and using her media personality profile to raise awareness about the plight of people forced to flee.
"Many families need more support and are unable to regain what they lost because of lack of resources.”
Leanne was born and raised in South Africa. She has dedicated much of her broadcasting career to speaking to the economic and humanitarian issues impacting her country and region. For the last 19 years, Leanne has been the face of the popular Morning Live television programme, on SABC. Using this platform to raise awareness about issues impacting the Southern Africa region has been one of her main priorities.
“It is critical for us to bring attention to the invisible and often forgotten emergencies in our region,” says Leanne. “I think the SABC’s coverage of the situation in Mozambique opened up many eyes. This is a great start, but it’s one that we need to keep creating and building awareness on, drawing momentum to activate more support.”
You can support Leanne’s appeal to help forced displaced people in Mozambique today. Every little bit counts.
Please visit: https://donate.unhcr.org/leanne-manas