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Elísio Zacarias has been taking care of his brothers since 2015, when their parents were kidnapped
In central Mozambique, hundreds of children have been orphaned by the armed conflict between unreconciled guerrillas of the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo), the country’s largest opposition party, and the forces of the government of the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo).
Authorities are unable to provide precise figures, but estimate that close to 400 orphan children received assistance over a period of five years in four accommodation centres in the central provinces, at a time when many displaced people were leaving their areas of origin because of the armed conflict.
In the Sofala province town of Gorongosa alone, around 100 families are now headed by minors who lost their guardians in the conflict, according to municipal authorities there.
Elísio takes care of five siblings
Elísio Zacarias started taking care of his five siblings in 2015, when their parents were kidnapped. He is now 20 years old, and still lives in the neighbourhood of Nhantaca 2. It was here that, by mid-2018, there was an accommodation centre for displaced persons from Vunduzi and Canda.
His father, the Frelimo secretary, was kidnapped by armed men allegedly from the Renamo guerrilla, and never came back. “We lived in Satundjira, near Vunduzi,” Elísio recalls. “Because our father was from Frelimo, and at that time men from Renamo were looking for Frelimo members, they came to our home at night and took him away,” he recounts.
Days later, they returned and forced the mother to take the pots, chickens and goats and go cook for her husband. Elisio never saw her again. To this day, he struggles to support his brothers, without help from the authorities.
Help from the authorities is not enough
“We are not living well here, we are suffering because we don’t have food or clothes to wear. We live based on the sale of bamboo, firewood and chairs made from the bamboo that we get from the bush,” the young man says.
The social action councillor in Gorongosa municipality, Paulo Mufundisse, will not specify exactly the number of children in need in the care of the city council, but does affirm that the authorities are working to ensure their welfare.
“We contacted some nurses and technicians, some mothers, at the neighbourhood level, and they go train these carers on how to prepare nutritious porridge for the children. And the municipality has supported the purchase of some products such as cooking oil, beans, flour and eggs,” Mufundisse says.
“I live in extreme poverty”
Like the villages of Satundjira and Canda in Gorongosa, Muxúngue, in Chibabava district, was also the scene of military clashes between government forces and Renamo guerrillas. The District Social Action Service has registered and provides support to nearly 180 minors who lost their parents in the clashes.
But support has been one-off and not enough to cover the needs of the many disadvantaged there, says Adélia Samatenge, grandmother of an orphaned child in Gorongosa. “We go to pump water in the hand pump to sell it. I live in an extreme poverty; the child has neither books nor notebooks,” she complains.
Adélia Samatenge lost her husband and her son in days of intense fighting. The two, she says, had been kidnapped days before by the guerrillas, who forced them to carry food to their base. “They were forced by Renamo to take the food away. He and his father got lost there, they never came back from the attack,” she recalls.
Since then, Adélia has taken care of a grandson, now eight years old. His mother was kidnapped later, as she was washing clothes in a stream.
Psychological support is urgent
Cases like this should be monitored by specialists to safeguard healthy growth, says psychologist Benedito Lopes. “It is really urgent that children have psychological support, because the mind can cause various types of disorders, and [the trauma] can even lead to severe depression,” he warns.
Seven years after his parents disappeared, Elísio Zacarias never regained the courage to return to his village, where he could survive on agriculture – a situation that does not surprise Lopes.
“They practically develop the phobia inside themselves, after seeing their parents being slain. Of course, these same children will not want to go back, because they think they will do the same thing to them as they did to their parents. Therefore, what we are seeing is that the children are depressed,” the psychologist concludes.
In conversation with DW Africa, the provincial director of Gender, Children and Social Action in Sofala, Graciana Pita, said: “There is no specific government plan to support children who are orphans of parents who are victims of political-military tension.” However, various programmes to support orphans in general, including victims of cyclones and floods, are in place, Pita says.
Source: Deutsche Welle