Women and men pick up bricks from a collapsed house to build another structure in Beira, Mozambique. Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg – Allegations that a number of Mozambican survivors of the deadly Cyclone Idai - which claimed more than 1 000 lives and displaced tens of thousands in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique - were forced to have sex with community leaders in return for food are to be investigated by the United Nations (UN).

Following a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a statement pledging to look into the accusations, the East African reported.

“The UN has a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. It is not, and never will be, acceptable for any person in a position of power to abuse the most vulnerable, let alone in their time of greatest need,” read the statement.

OCHA said it had broadcast clear messages through multiple media outlets underlining that aid is free and that sexual exploitation and abuse were unlawfull. OCHA has also trained aid workers and volunteers on the prevention of such issues.

HRW interviewed 12 women from Mozambique’s central Nhamatanda district who said they had been sexually exploited. Further accounts from aid workers and residents in other parts of the country, including the port city of Beira, confirmed the allegations. 

Officials from Mozambique’s disaster management authority were not immediately available for comment.

African News Agency/ANA