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Mozambique: "Aid is free and sexual exploitation and abuse are unacceptable"

06 May 2019


Lourenço and Teresa lost track of their respective families when Cyclone Idai hit Beira, Mozambique. They became inseparable when they met in an orphanage. While their parents haven't yet been found, Lourenço will soon be reunited with his grandmother. Credit: OCHA/Saviano Abreu

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth have caused mass displacement, separated families and created significant protection concerns. Thousands of people are living in over-crowded and unsanitary conditions in collective centres – mainly schools and churches. Many children were separated from their families as they fled rising flood waters, and the number of now orphaned children remains unknown.

Those displaced have lost or damaged their personal identification documentation - such as birth certificates - which allowed them to access basic public services. Along with losing most of their personal items, people risk losing access to basic public services such as social security and education, which are needed to help people recover.

Rolling power outages affecting large swathes of the territory affect the ability to safely access resources and increase tensions in communal living spaces, exposing people to risks of heightened gender-based violence as people live in unsafe environments. Those people with specific needs, including children, persons with disabilities, elderly people and child headed households face particular risks in accessing safety and resources.

“From the outset of the Cyclone Idai response, and now as we respond to Cyclone Kenneth, we have broadcasted clear messaging - that aid is free, and that sexual exploitation and abuse are unacceptable - through multiple communications channels”, Humanitarian Coordinator for Mozambique Marcoluigi Corsi said today. “We have trained hundreds of aid workers and volunteers on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. However, even in the face of our best efforts to prevent cases from occurring, the reality remains that the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse persists. We have therefore established clear referral pathways to capture and follow-up on any rumor, report or allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse and have clear protocols to fast-track action in response such cases.”

Last week, OCHA and UNICEF conducted a series of training sessions to explain the basic principles of the UN's committment to the global fight to eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse. The training was organized for local and UN partners and volunteers. It emphasized the importance of power balance between humanitarian actors and beneficiaries. Credit: OCHA/Saviano Abreu

Humanitarian crises exacerbate the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse as people become desperate for live-saving resources such as food, shelter and water. Humanitarian partners are doing their outmost to ensure that the response reduces risk of exploitation and negative coping mechanisms in a crisis.

“Our top priority now is to ensure that any survivor/complainant who has raised an allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse in Mozambique is safe and has rapid access to survivor-centred services and support”, Mr. Corsi said. “We are engaging with the Government and all other relevant interlocutors to ensure that any report of sexual exploitation and abuse is addressed confidentially, promptly and comprehensively”.

Out of the US$281.7 million required by the Mozambique appeal, US$13.9 million are urgently needed to carry out essential protection activities for 1.8 million people, including to address the needs of survivors of gender-based violence, establish solid monitoring systems and put in place the conditions to minimize the risks. To date, the appeal remains a mere 32.6 per cent funded.