Hope and healing abound in war-torn Mozambique

Northern Mozambique is blighted by violence, but new Hubs of Hope have become centres of hope for the future. The community events and meetings taking place at 11 hubs across Cabo Delgado are transforming the lives of war-weary people.

Life is tough in Cabo Delgado, the most northern province of Mozambique. Its people have lived amidst escalating violence since 2017. More than 4,000 people have been killed. The United Nations states that almost a million people have been forced to flee their homes. It is against this backdrop that the amazing work in the Hubs has taken place.

The Hubs have been built as a result of the Unconditional campaign in 2021, which was awarded UK Aid Match funding. This meant every pound given, up to £2 million, was matched by the UK government. The Unconditional Appeal raised an incredible £4.4 million, including £2 million from the UK government.

We are now at the halfway point of rolling out this innovative three-year project. Already tens of thousands of lives have been changed for the better.

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The Hubs of Hope are often the only place in a village with electricity and an internet connection. They are also a place of restoration. People once banished from their communities because of leprosy are welcomed in the hubs. Hope is renewed in these places of unconditional love.

At the Hubs of Hope, members of the community have been trained as Leprosy Changemakers. People like Eduardo, pictured above with Clementina and her daughters. A total of 300 Changemakers have been taught to recognise the early signs of leprosy. They not only signpost people to early treatment, but they walk with them on their journey.

An unexpected blessing

Clementina's life changed drastically on 2 June 2022 when insurgents descended on her home village in Cabo Delgado. Clementina witnessed unspeakable violence which haunts her to this day. She, her husband and children fled for their lives, leaving everything but the clothes they were wearing.

But an unexpected blessing came from this terrible day – the gift of health for their daughter, Elisa. When Elisa was just a toddler, discoloured patches began to appear on her skin. Despite Clementina's best efforts, she was unable to find out why. She felt helpless and increasingly anxious as she watched her daughter’s health deteriorate.

Having settled in their new home village, the family visited the village chief and showed him their daughter’s skin patches. She had almost given up hope but was encouraged when the chief quickly called for Eduardo. Eduardo had trained as a Leprosy Changemaker and knew that it was leprosy. He became a friend to the family and went with them to the hospital.

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"When we arrived here, we thanked God for keeping us safe," said Clementina.

"It was awful, yet running away from the attackers meant my daughter’s leprosy was diagnosed and treated. I am so grateful that she is going to be fine."

Thanks to the work Changemakers like Eduardo, 1,312 people have been cured of leprosy since the project began. 43 government health workers have received leprosy training, and the Changemakers refer people to these vital teams. This ensures no person affected by leprosy is misdiagnosed or missed through a lack of knowledge.

Climate change and community

Each week at the Hubs, people affected by leprosy meet together in self-care groups. Here lifelong friendships are made, and members check one another's feet for cuts. It's an important routine for people who have lost feeling in their feet because of leprosy. Wounds often go unnoticed because there’s no pain. And if they become infected and ulcerate, there’s a huge risk of disability. A total of 868 people are now self-help group members.

People living in rural Northern Mozambique mainly survive through subsistence farming. In recent years they have lost crops to Cyclone Kenneth and Cyclone Idai. Extreme weather events like these are becoming more frequent due to climate change.

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At the Hubs, the farmers receive training on how to protect their crops against these global changes. They also learn how to market their surplus crops to provide an income, and savings groups support anyone who has a financial emergency. Group members are encouraged to save for challenging times ahead. 1,982 people are now benefiting from training and support like this.

Not a day goes by when the Hubs aren't in use. Whether it is an adult literacy class or a movie screening, they are at the beating heart of their community.

Radiating hope

Chief Executive, Peter Waddup, said: “I am incredibly thankful to our amazing supporters for changing the lives of tens of thousands of people in Northern Mozambique for the better. And we are only halfway through the roll-out of this incredible project!

“I am also in awe of my tenacious and selfless colleagues in Mozambique. The fact that this project has been able to go ahead, let alone be so successful, in such circumstances is nothing short of miraculous. Not only have they risked their own lives by working in areas of violent attacks, but they have also sacrificed their own family time.

“Since the project began, many staff families have left Cabo Delgado for safety as the insurgents moved south towards Pemba. Yet Leprosy Mission teams have remained resolute and steadfast. Their bravery and sacrifice have provided a lifeline to people like Clementina and her family who have been through unspeakable trauma.

I am so thankful for and inspired by the hope radiating from these special Hubs seven days a week.”

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Photos © Ricardo Franco