Sexual exploitation and abuse of women in exchange for humanitarian aid have been allegedly reported among people displaced by armed Islamist groups in the Northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique.
Zenaida Machado, a senior researcher at Africa division of Human Rights Watch, who paid a visit to Mozambique last month to conduct interviews with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), cited a 23-year-old internally displaced woman named Abiba, who described the situation of sexual harassment by a relief worker.
She told the senior researcher that after she arrived by boat at Paquitequete beach in Pemba, the provincial capital, a relief worker assisting the IDPs offered her a place to stay in an accommodation centre if she would have sex with him.
Abiba who refused the offer and for fear of further harassment didn’t approach local authorities for help. Instead, she decided to live in the house of another IDP’s relative in Pemba housing 38 other people, Machado revealed.
The Center for Public Integrity, a Mozambican non-governmental organisation, reported that last year, community leaders sexually abused dozens of displaced women in Cabo Delgado in exchange for humanitarian aid.
Report from an investigation by the Centre for Investigative Journalism (Mozambique), published this week, also discovered that some aid workers requested for money or sex before distributing food parcels to women in various IDPs camps across Cabo Delgado province.
But these accusations from aid workers and community leaders are not new.
The Human Rights Watch reported in 2019 that survivors of Cyclone Idai in central Mozambique were being forced to have sex with community leaders to have access to basic amenities.
Two years later after the awareness was made, Human Rights Watch is unaware of public action or law taken by the Mozambican government to investigate or punish those found guilty for such abuses.
“The sexual exploitation of women who are already vulnerable and in dire need of assistance for themselves and their families is cruel and should be stopped immediately,” Machado declared.
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