Island of Mozambique: Portugal supports emergency humanitarian assistance
FILE - For illustration purposes only. [File photo: Lusa]
At least 108 children were “forced” into premature marriages in the first quarter in Cabo Delgado due to conflict in Mozambique’s northern province, a Save the Children report has indicated, not counting off-the-record cases.
“Cabo Delgado was already the worst place in Mozambique to be a child before the start of this conflict, with mass displacement and horrific abuse things are worse,” said Inger Ashing, director of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Save the Children, quoted in the report.
In the last quarter of 2021, 65 cases of premature marriages were recorded, a situation worsened with 108 cases identified between January and March this year, a number that the director considers “incredibly high”.
The marriages were registered in the districts of Pemba, Metuge, Chiure and Montepuez, areas that are home to displaced people.
According to the NGO, the suffering experienced in transit and accommodation centres, the challenges of a new life in regions far from their areas of origin and the difficulties in sheltering and feeding their children, leads to “many parents” making the decision to “let them marry to ease the burden of caring”.
“The situation is unsustainable and one of despair,” the director lamented.
Almost half a million children have fled armed violence in Cabo Delgado since 2017, Inger Ashing advanced, noting that most are “out of school, without medical assistance, enough food or water and their parents are unemployed”.
According to the NGO, before the conflict broke out, the province already had the second highest rate of premature marriages and the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Mozambique.
For Save the Children, the security situation in Cabo Delgado “remains volatile and unpredictable”, with, in addition to “terrifying attacks on communities”, “continuous reports of serious violations of human rights” and in particular of children.
“More funds are urgently needed to address the immediate needs of children and communities,” Ashing concluded in an appeal for help.
Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas but has been terrorised since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.
There are 784,000 internally displaced people due to the conflict, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and around 4,000 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project.
Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops, with support from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has allowed areas where rebels were present to recover, but they continue to carry out occasional attacks in neighbouring areas.