Mozambique: Opposition group raids hospitals

August 29, 2016


Armed men linked to Mozambique’s main opposition party, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), have raided at least two hospitals and two health clinics over the past month. The attacks on the medical facilities, which involved looting medicine and supplies and destroying medical equipment, threaten access to health care for tens of thousands of people in remote areas of the country.

In the most recent attack, on August 12, 2016, about a dozen gunmen who identified themselves as RENAMO entered the town of Morrumbala, in the central province of Zambezia, at about 4 a.m., several witnesses and local authorities told Human Rights Watch. The men first raided a police station, freeing about 23 men detained there, and then looted the local district hospital. A nurse who was there said that the men opened fire at the building. “I was in the emergency room when they fired gunshots through the windows,” he said. “We were hiding beneath chairs, beds… anything we could find.” The nurse and two Zambezia-based reporters who arrived at the hospital just after the attack said that the gunmen had looted medicine from the facility’s main pharmacy.

Previous attacks

  • On July 30, a group of armed men who identified themselves as RENAMO raided a clinic in the village of Mopeia, in Zambezia province, in the middle of the night. A doctor who visited the clinic the following day said the gunmen burned patients’ medical records and stole vaccines, syringes, and medicines. The clinic stores essential medicines, including antiretroviral medicines for HIV/AIDS patients, for a population of over 8,000 people, he said.
  • The armed men then went to Mopeia’s main hospital, about eight kilometers from the clinic. According ot a nurse present, they entered the ward where patients were sleeping, threatened patients and medical staff, ordering them to leave the hospital, and carried away medicines, serum bags, bed sheets, and mosquito nets. The nurse said none of the patients or medical staff were hurt.
  • On July 31, about a dozen armed men who identified themselves as RENAMO attacked the local health clinic in the village of Maiaca, in the northern province of Niassa. They took five kits of HIV tests, four boxes of syringes, and over 600 vials of penicillin.

“Military strategy”

Mozambican authorities say that RENAMO gunmen have carried out similar attacks on health clinics over the past month in Sofala, Manica, and Tete provinces, in central Mozambique, but Human Rights Watch was not able to verify those reports.

The RENAMO party, which has offices in the capital, Maputo, has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attacks. However, party leader Afonso Dhlakama, who is in hiding, told the Mozambican television station STV on August 5 that he had given orders to attack some areas of Zambezia province. He did not specify the targets or mention medical facilities. Dhlakama said the attacks were a “military strategy” aimed at dispersing government soldiers who are surrounding RENAMO positions in Gorongosa bush, about 200 kilometers south of the villages that were attacked. Several districts of Tete, Zambezia, Manica, Sofala, and Niassa provinces have had recent armed clashes between government forces and Renamo fighters.

Response Human Rights Watch

“RENAMO’s leadership needs to call off these attacks on health facilities immediately,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. He also said: “RENAMO’s raids on medical facilities seem part of a repugnant strategy to damage health facilities and loot medicines. […] The attacks on hospitals and health clinics are threatening the health of thousands of people in Mozambique. What they are succeeding in doing is to deny crucial health services to Mozambicans who need them.”

Source: Human Rights Watch news article