Violent conflict drives child marriage in Mozambique


Save the Children International Country Director for Mozambique, Brechtje van Lith

from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
Mozambique Bureau
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – CASES of early and forced marriage, with Mozambican girls abducted and forced into marriage by armed groups or by families seeking a dowry are on the increase amid the surge of terror by Islamist groups in the north.

Child protection staff from Save the Children report an increase of 10 percent in recorded cases of child marriage in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Fears are that the numbers are rising further as the conflict cuts children off from the protection and support needed.

Brechtje van Lith, Save the Children’s Country Director for Mozambique, said child marriage not only robbed girls of their childhood but also had severe long-term consequences on their health, education and overall development.

“It perpetuates a cycle of poverty and inequality, impacting not just the individual child but also the wider community,” van Lith said.

She said the girls of Cabo Delgado had the right to a secure future of their choice, including the right to an education and a career, the right to decide if, when, and whom they marry and have children as well as the right to access quality health care and social services.

“It is our collective duty to protect these girls,” van Lith said.

“Now we understand the complexities of their world better, and it is vital that we now strategise together with the government, development and humanitarian partners to protect these girls and allow them to enjoy their rights,” van Lith added.

Cabo Delgado is the province worst affected by the Islamist insurgency, the Ansar al-Sunna widely known as al-Shabaab, as the conflict heads towards its eighth year with no end in sight.

A surge of attacks in Cabo Delgado since January this year has also led to school closures putting more than 22 700 children out of the classroom.

The violence has also led to the widespread destruction of property and displacement.

The most recent attack, in June, saw gunmen hold the town of Macomia under siege for two days. They also raided a medical facility, looting vehicles and medical supplies.

At least 700 people fled the latest fighting in Macomia, with data from the United Nation (UN) in June showing more than 189 000 people have been forced from their homes since the end of last year, the largest displacement since the start of the conflict.

Since the Islamists’ Ansar al-Sunna widely known as al-Shabaab first attack in 2017, an estimated 4 000 people have been killed and over 700 000 forced to flee their homes.

The insurgency has continued in spite of the presence of armies from some African countries to support the local armed forces.

– CAJ News

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