Photo credit: DiasporaEngager (www.DiasporaEngager.com).

Celestino, alongside hundreds of individuals from the town of Muidumbe, gave up all they had and made a hurried exit to Mavala, about 190 miles (305 km) away.

“We were just retreating in the direction of a location that was unknown; I wanted to be with my children,” says Celestino.

Celestino and his family settled as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in a modest cottage in the town of Balama, located in the district of Balama in the province of Cabo Delgado. Balama is home to more than 11,000 people who have been displaced as a result of the conflict. Almost 70 per cent of IDPs in Cabo Delgado are living in host communities, with the population doubled over the last five years.

Celestino and his family, like many other individuals who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict and disasters, face even another bigger challenge: They lack any civil documentation to prove their identity as Mozambican.

“We did not have the time to take anything, and our documents burned in our house. It is quite difficult to function without your paperwork. I had the impression that I was all by myself,” adds Celestino. “It restricted my freedom of movement to the point that I often had anxiety about the possibility of being stopped by authorities and not being able to provide evidence of my identity. I constantly put my own safety at risk by going out in order to protect my family from any problems that may arise.”

In northern Mozambique, four people out of five do not have civil documents. They were lost during their journey, destroyed, or never owned.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the support of the Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) of the European Union (EU), the German Cooperation, and the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is assisting the government of Mozambique in its efforts to provide civil documentation to people who have been internally displaced so that they can acquire national identity cards and register their births.

“It is essential to have a document so that you can continue working and avoid missing out on any possibilities. Tomorrow, I will bring all of my children to the registration office in order for them to be able to enroll in the neighborhood school for the next semester,” Celestino says joyfully.

Source of original article: International Organization for Migration (storyteller.iom.int).
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