The U.N. food agency said on Tuesday that around one million people are facing severe hunger in northern Mozambique where hundreds of thousands have fled worsening Islamist violence.
Last month, Islamic State-linked insurgents assaulted Palma, a town in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado close to major gas projects under development by companies including Exxon and Total.
In a briefing in Geneva, the World Food Program (WFP) said 950,000 people are now hungry in Mozambique. It is appealing to donors for $82 million to confront the crisis.
Tomson Phiri, a WFP spokesman, said “families and individuals have had to abandon their belongings and livelihoods and flee for safety… adding to an already desperate situation in Northern Mozambique.”
“We are facing a likely long-lasting humanitarian crisis,” the U.N. Children Fund’s director of emergencies, Manuel Fontaine, told the same briefing.
Nearly 690,000 people were already displaced across the country by February. Another 16,500 have since been registered in other areas of Cabo Delgado after fleeing the attack in Palma, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA, announced on Monday that tens of thousands more are still displaced within Palma district or are on the move.
Many fled to a nearby village called Quitunda, built by French energy giant Total to house those displaced by its $20 billion gas project.
According to a witness, people there have little access to food, no protection and gather in their hundreds at Total’s site every day desperate for evacuation.
Total pulled its staff from the site due to nearby insurgent activity on April 2, while the WFP also stopped evacuation flights it had been operating.
Total has also suspended related operations in the provincial capital of Pemba, a source with direct knowledge of the matter reported.
Total did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
On Monday, Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction said it also needs 7 billion meticais ($126 million) to help those fleeing violence in Cabo Delgado, according to Portugal’s state news agency Lusa.
Authorities are still working to identify 12 beheaded bodies found in Palma after the attack, which both police and army officials said were believed to be foreigners.