During humanitarian crises, gender-based violence (GBV) is a potentially life-threatening health and protection problem, which often continues beyond the early stages of emergencies. GBV is a common violation faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly for women and girls, but also for men and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex populations ( LGBTI).
Specific evidence to guide responses to GBV in Cabo Delgado is needed. In Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, more than 740,000 people have fled the northeast and center of the province since the armed conflict began in 2017. Existing evidence suggests that GBV has been a factor. key to the conflict. However, specific information that could guide humanitarian responses on the forms and drivers of GBV and the availability and reach of existing GBV services is missing or unclear.
This rapid assessment, carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Mozambique, aimed to understand the risks of GBV and the response to displaced populations to Cabo Delgado. Information was gathered through qualitative interviews with GBV service providers and focus group discussions (FGDs) with community volunteers involved in the GBV response. The data was collected between August and October 2021 in the municipalities of Metuge, Montepuez and Pemba. All research activities followed existing guidelines on safe and ethical research into GBV in emergencies.
The conflict in Cabo Delgado has had a devastating impact, especially for women and girls who experience current and new forms of GBV.
The crisis has exacerbated multiple forms of GBV, including domestic violence (IPV), physical and sexual violence, kidnapping, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), early and forced marriage and childbirth. economic violence. Existing support structures and prevention measures have been greatly compromised by conflict and displacement, leaving the urgent needs of GBV survivors unaddressed.
Different vulnerable groups have different risks from GBV. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping, sexual violence, early and forced marriage and trafficking in areas affected by conflict. Sexual exploitation and abuse appear to be pervasive in IDP sites and some host communities, particularly against single women, female-headed households, and unaccompanied girls. Women and girls with disabilities are also considered a high risk group, although knowledge about the extent and forms of violence against them is still very limited. Men, boys and LGBTI people have also been identified as a high risk group, particularly for physical and sexual violence by armed combatants, although very few cases are reported.
Displaced populations face increased risks of GBV in IDP sites and areas of the host community where they seek safety. In IDP sites, the female and male population is exposed to physical and sexual violence and harassment from armed actors. Many displaced people do not have civil identity papers, which exposes them to physical and sexual violence from armed actors, especially sex workers. Traditional discourses on the insecurity that displaced people face often promote the role of men in protecting women while normalizing and amplifying controlling behaviors towards women and girls, which can prevent some women and girls to seek support.
Socio-economic vulnerability linked to the crisis increases vulnerability to GBV. Domestic violence and early or forced marriages have been reported by families who lost their livelihoods and experienced acute food insecurity and housing instability as a result of the crisis. Other forms of GBV are directly linked to the socio-economic vulnerability of groups already at risk. This includes the sexual and economic exploitation and abuse of women and girls within a broader context of transactional sex and unequal gender norms among households, community leaders and humanitarian aid delivery structures. Socio-economic risk factors for GBV need to be addressed through GBV responses and humanitarian programs.
Existing government GBV services have been largely disrupted by conflict and displacement, especially in hard-to-reach areas in the northeast and center of the province from where many GBV service providers have had to. flee or interrupt the provision of services. In southern districts where most of the displaced have found refuge, government actors and humanitarian agencies are working together to adapt GBV programs to the new context and needs. Several safe spaces for women and girls have been created, while other key structures have been strengthened, such as community outreach programs run by volunteers and outreach programs.
There is a serious lack of access to essential support for survivors of GBV, especially for groups most at risk in remote areas affected by conflict. The safety, care and recovery of GBV survivors are affected by gaps in access to comprehensive GBV case management. These include access to health care, social services, security assistance (including safe shelters and safe spaces for women and girls) and access to justice and protection which is particularly lacking in the northeast. Across the province, multiple barriers prevent access to existing government and NGO services, such as limited resources and capacity, long distances to travel, stigma, and limited community awareness.
The capacity of GBV services to provide quality responses in accordance with national and international guidelines is limited due to the scale of the needs, lack of adequate resources and limited technical capacity building. Some service providers lack protocols and counseling tailored to the specific GBV needs encountered in a context of conflict and displacement. The risk that providers will reinforce harmful gender norms, discrimination and prejudice is of particular concern as many service providers appear to be unaware of the frameworks that should guide quality survivor-centered care.
Existing GBV response programs continue to adapt to the new crisis context. There is an urgent need to fully engage with groups at increased risk of GBV and to understand how displacement and conflict have created new dynamics of vulnerability. Vulnerable groups include sex workers, women and girls who are heads of households, unaccompanied and separated children, adolescent girls, LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and surviving men and boys. However, existing programs often lack the resources, training and guidance to effectively and safely address their specific GBV needs.
Coordination between GBV response services is limited and impacts the quality and holistic care for survivors. Service providers are often unaware of other programs or options available to support survivors, reducing their ability to provide integrated support to survivors. Likewise, information and data relating to GBV risks and needs are not always shared between actors to improve the response.
Recommendations to improve GBV prevention and response for vulnerable groups in Cabo Delgado include: providing urgent funding to scale up the delivery of survivor-centered GBV response services throughout the province; ensure that essential GBV services are provided by trained service providers and accessible to all vulnerable communities; foster strong community engagement and strong coordination between government, NGO actors and the community; integration of GBV risk reduction programs, in particular to protect against SEA, into all humanitarian sector programs; strengthen links with livelihoods and other development actors as part of integrated response services; and supporting further research to develop effective programs for groups at risk, especially adolescent girls.