Tens of thousands of children are at risk of abuse and exploitation in Mozambique six months after the country was devastated by Cyclone Idai, World Vision warned Tuesday.
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As the southern African country is still struggling to recover from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth that hit in March and April, more than 60,000 people, 30,000 of them children, are living in resettlement camps after their homes were destroyed.
“As people struggle to find food we know girls and boys will be at particular risk from being forced to drop out of school and into abusive work, or that girls may end up being married off as children or forced to trade in sex to help their families survive,” World Vision Response Director David Munkley said in a statement.
The United Nations said the international response needs another US$397 million to help to the needs of affected people over the coming months.
More than 277,700 homes and 1,300 schools were damaged or destroyed in the storms, displacing hundreds of thousands of survivors.
Around 25 percent of the country’s cereal crops were decimated just before harvests were due, which has resulted in rising malnutrition rates among children.
Food surveys done earlier in the year in cyclone and drought-affected areas found 67,500 children needed treatment for malnutrition.The situation is likely to be worse now as the poorest families struggle to feed their families while trying to rebuild their livelihoods.
Mozambique already had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 48 percent of girls married before the age of 18 and 14 percent before the age of 15.
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The number of people going hungry is expected to increase from 1.6 million to 1.9 million.
“As people get hungrier and struggle to survive, it is the children who have to help families pick up the slack by turning to all manner of dangerous survival strategies," Munkley said, adding that “our job as humanitarians is to make sure children can be children and do not have their futures and their education stolen from them.”
Cyclone Idai made landfall on March 14 in Beira, the second largest city in the country, where it caused damage to 90 percent of the buildings and infrastructure. It continued moving inland until it entered neighboring Zimbabwe, where it killed 344 people.
Three weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit the province of Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, but because it was an area of lower population density it caused less damage and 31 deaths.
There are still around 2.5 million people who need help in the aftermath of the storms, which represents 10 percent of the population of the country, according to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.