from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – AID workers are reportedly sexually exploiting and abusing women displaced by armed Islamist groups in northern Mozambique.
Human rights groups allege the vulnerable women were violated in exchange for humanitarian aid amid the crisis in the Cabo Delgado province.
It is the second time in two years such allegations have emerged in the troubled region but in 2019, victims had been displaced by the Cyclone Idai.
Zenaida Machado, the Human Rights Watch senior researcher for Africa (Angola and Mozambique), revealed that while interviewing internally displaced people (IDPs), she spoke to a 23-year-old woman who described sexual harassment by a relief worker.
She reported the victim arrived by boat at Paquitequete beach in Pemba, the provincial capital, and a relief worker assisting the IDPs offered her a safe place to stay in an accommodation centre if she would be intimate with him.
It is reported the woman refused and for fear of further harassment did not approach local authorities for help.
Instead, she decided to stay at the house of another IDP’s relative in Pemba, with 38 other people.
Last year, the Centre for Public Integrity, a Mozambican nongovernmental organisation, reported that community leaders sexually abused dozens of displaced women in Cabo Delgado in exchange for humanitarian aid.
An investigation by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, published this week, similarly established that some aid workers demanded money or sex before distributing food parcels to women in various IDP camps in Cabo Delgado.
“Unfortunately, these accusations are not new,” Machado said.
HRW reported it was unaware of any public commitment or actions taken by the Mozambican authorities to investigate or punish culprits 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 said.
She appealed to Mozambican authorities to investigate and prosecute those abusing their positions of power to commit these crimes and ensure that women and girls fleeing violence received the necessary protection and assistance.
More than 3 000 people have been killed while more than 800 000 others have been displaced since the conflict in northern Mozambique began in 2017.
– CAJ News