Mozambique was invited on Wednesday to investigate new allegations that women were forced to donate sex or money to receive food aid in areas affected by a four-year insurgency.
Local officials in the northern province of Cabo Delgado have called for women who should receive free food aid as part of international humanitarian programs, said Zenaida Machado, researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“It’s very common. It’s a common practice, ”she said, pointing to the similarities of an investigation conducted by HRW two years ago after a deadly cyclone hit a separate province.
She said exploitation “happens most at the community level”.
Cabo Delgado has been ravaged by intense violence in recent years that uprooted at least 800,000 people from their homes, with more than 3,100 killed, half of them civilians, according to the conflict monitoring organization ACLED.
Data collection has been difficult, with most victims unsure of how and where to report the abuse, but Human Rights Watch’s report on Wednesday confirmed the findings of an investigation conducted earlier this week by the Mozambican Center for Journalism in ‘investigation.
A national watchdog, the Center for Public Integrity, reported similar allegations in October of last year. Local authorities draw up lists of people displaced by the conflict. These lists determined who received food aid.
“In return for including IDPs on beneficiary lists, local leaders demand sexual favors from vulnerable women and girls,” the report said.
“This is happening in a context where the displaced are fragile, especially women and children who are more vulnerable,” center director Edson Cortez told AFP on Wednesday.
“The authorities should create channels where the perpetrators of these abuses are exposed. “
A provincial government official told AFP via text message that he had no knowledge or information about the reported abuses.
Machado said Human Rights Watch discovered similar abuses two years ago in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. The latest allegations emerged during an investigation into other issues affecting the internally displaced, she added.
In March this year, insurgents rushed into the coastal city of Palma, killing dozens and triggering an exodus that included Total project workers, forcing the company to halt work on a natural gas project in $ 20 billion.
Regional forces from Rwanda and Southern Africa have been deployed since July to support the Mozambican army in its battle against the insurgents.