HARARE, Dec 14 (Reuters) – At least 400,000 people have fled
militant attacks in northern Mozambique, the United Nations
refugee agency said, warning that the crisis could quickly
spread beyond the country’s borders if regional neighbours did
not help tackle the insurgency.

Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to
gas developments worth some $60 billion, is grappling with an
insurgency linked to Islamic State that has gathered pace this
year, with insurgents regularly taking on the army and seizing
entire towns.

Valentin Tapsoba, the southern African head of the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said families who
were rebuilding their lives after the destruction caused by
Cyclone Kenneth in 2019 have had to flee from militant attacks.

“This is a situation starting in one country but if all the
countries don’t get their act together to tackle it and wait too
long, it could spread within the sub-region,” Tapsoba told
Reuters by phone from Pempa in Mozambique.

Zimbabwe presidential spokesman George Charamba said leaders
from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania
were set to meet in Maputo on Monday over the insurgency.

Tapsoba said 424,000 people have fled the insurgency to
Niassa, Nampula and Pempa and that the number could rise. He
said Mozambican authorities put the figure at 570,000.

On Friday the Mozambican government, together with UN
agencies and other local non governmental groups, will launch an
international appeal for funding to help those fleeing Cabo
Delgado, Tapsoba said.

UNHCR had raised a third of the $19.2 million it requires
for shelter, water and sanitation and food next year, said

“The numbers are still growing … so it is a very big
concern,” he said.

The onset of the rainy season could make it difficult to
reach the camps where thousands are living, which would be “a
nightmare for these people,” he added.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Richard Pullin)

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