Catholic Bishops’ Study in Mozambique Shows Poor Women, Children among Trafficking Victims

The cover page of the study on “Trafficking in Persons, Organs and Parts of the Human Body in central Mozambique” presented on 18 May 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Mozambique have, in a study, established various categories of victims of human trafficking, including “poor women, children and adolescents.”

Conducted by the Commission for Migrants, Refugees and Displaced Persons (CEMIRDE) of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM), the study focused on “Trafficking in Persons, Organs and Parts of the Human Body in central Mozambique.”

“The majority of the victims of trafficking are poor women, children and adolescents, often convinced to go with the traffickers in exchange for a better life and promises of easy money,” Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Mozambique’s Beira Archdiocese said Tuesday, May 18 in reference to the study findings.

Archbishop Zuanna added referring to those identified among victims of human trafficking, “These people are subjected to various forms of violence and in many cases are killed for organs and body parts.”

“In many cases, the organ traffickers are people known to the victims, such as neighbours or even relatives,” the Archbishop further reported during the May 18 event that took place at the Catholic University of Beira.


The study reveals that “in most cases the victims were taken to South Africa and the cases of extraction of human organs for obscure purposes had the involvement of traditional healers,” he reported.

The study is of interest to all because as the findings show, human trafficking “affects the most vulnerable people,” the Mozambican Archbishop went on to say, adding that the study provides insights into the problem of human trafficking, which “competent authorities” can use to prevent “this type of crime.”

The study was conducted between 2020 and 2021 in Mozambique’s provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambézia and Tete in the central region of the country.

According to a representative of the research team, Titos Quembo, the study established that “the population does not trust the judicial institutions, a fact associated with the lack of human and material resources that hinder the production of evidence against criminals.”

Mr. Quembo explained, “Poverty and low schooling facilitate the work of the traffickers, who convince many parents to sell their children in exchange for the needed money.”

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“In many cases, traditional healers are the main promoters of the extraction of human body parts for rituals and medicines that promise miraculous cures,” Mr. Quembo further said, and continued, “Some of the biggest victims of this market are people with albinism, who are constantly persecuted and killed because it is believed that their organs can promote the cure of various illnesses.”

Given that many countries border Mozambique, “the control and surveillance of Human Trafficking becomes more difficult and, therefore, there are no concrete figures,” he said, adding, “Besides trafficking in human persons, Mozambique is also a route for the transit of victims from other countries, who are often taken to countries like South Africa.”

“One of our informants followed the dramatic case of 78 illegal immigrants found in the container of a truck, 64 of whom were lifeless,” Mr Quembo recounted.

The young people in the container, he disclosed, had been “recruited in Ethiopia by people from South Africa, and passed through Malawi. However, it is not possible to state the purpose for which they were being taken, and it is believed that the intention was labour exploitation.”

The study complements two previous researches (2016 and 2018), which focused on the phenomenon of Trafficking in Human persons and organs in the South and North of Mozambique. They were realized in partnership with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Caritas Spain.


Making reference to these previous studies during the May 18 event, Bishop Atanasio Amisse Canira of Mozambique’s Lichinga Diocese pointed out that “the existence and growth of Human Trafficking in central Mozambique (is) a fact evidenced by two other previous studies.”

“These studies seek to sensitize the public on the existence and need to coordinate activities to combat and prevent these practices,” Bishop Canira said.

The Local Ordinary of Lichinga Diocese who doubles as president of CEMIRDE further said, “The fight against these practices requires the collective efforts from the entire society in order to restore the true meaning of life and human dignity.”

At the May 18 event, the Chief Prosecutor of the Province of Sofala, Dr. Carolina Azarias, highlighted some of the violence the victims of human trafficking go through, underscoring the significance of empirical studies about the matter.

“It is known today that thousands of people are trafficked throughout the world, in a highly profitable business on a global scale,” Dr. Azarias said, and added, “These trafficked persons are deprived of their freedom, subjected to psychological violence, coercion, threats and in general physical violence.”

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In 2019, members of CEM encouraged various stakeholders to work toward preventing and supporting victims of human trafficking. 

“The Bishops have called Church organizations to be active in the prevention and psycho-social support to victims of human trafficking,” the then Director of Caritas in Mozambique’s Diocese of Pemba, Leah Marie Lucas, told ACI Africa in October 2019.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.