Plan International has trained 127 volunteer activists in Mozambique to identify and report cases of gender-based violence and abuse in temporary shelters as the country fights to recover from Cyclone Idai.
Addressing adolescent girls’ and women’s specific needs – including the increased risk of sexual violence during emergencies – is essential to reduce the impact of crises and keep girls safe from harm.
The volunteers are trained to spot sexual exploitation, child traffic, drugs abuse and all kinds of domestic violence. They will be looking out for unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, pregnant women, adolescents and the elderly as part of this initiative in partnership with UNFPA and the government.
Families living in crowded temporary shelters
Rosa, 25, is one of the 161,000 people staying in temporary shelters Mozambique after Cyclone Idai destroyed their homes and their belongings. Rosa’s camp is an overcrowded school with communal bathroom facilities where she feels vulnerable to being attacked.
Rosa’s husband was away working in another town when the cyclone struck. She hasn’t been able to locate him since she had to flee their home. Now, she’s single-handedly looking after her 5 children in the temporary shelter at the school.
The girls’ toilet is what everyone at the shelter uses to relieve themselves while the boys’ toilet has been converted into a bathroom with basic shower facilities.
Fear using shared facilities at night
As a mother of four girls under the age of 10, Rosa feels too afraid to use the facilities or allow her daughters to do so, especially after dark.
“During the day, we feel safe sharing the toilets with the men but at night we don’t,” she says. “I worry about bumping into men at night.”
“This is what we use as a toilet at night,” she says, holding up a white bucket. “I want to make sure my children are safe so we would rather use this than go out at night.”
The family sleep together in a classroom with several other mothers and children. They keep the door locked until dawn and forbid the children from going out.
Girls at increased risk of sexual violence
Rosa’s fear and fierce determination to protect her children from harm is understandable. The nature of an emergency like Cyclone Idai can increase the exposure of girls and young women to risks of sexual violence. The lack of facilities, light, privacy and security put girls living in temporary camps at additional risk.
So the volunteers looking out for signs of abuse and violence in these temporary shelters will be one less thing for Rosa to worry about while she waits for news from her husband and is able to leave the shelter for a more permanent new home.
We are also providing buckets for women and girls to use as they see fit and water purification tablets so that they do not have to travel long distances to fetch water, thus helping them to stay safe.
How is Mozambique coping in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai?
The number of people living in makeshift shelters is continually decreasing, with the government encouraging relocation from schools so education can resume.
However, the total reported cases of cholera has risen to over 4000. Our emergency response teams are prioritising water and sanitation provisions to keep the spread of disease at bay.
But the children and families affected by Cyclone Idai still need your help.