OTTAWA, July 12, 2011 - Female refugees fleeing conflict and hunger in East Africa are facing another threat: rape and sexual violence. According to UNHCR reports, the numbers of sexual and gender-based violence cases have quadrupled: 358 incidents reported from January until June 2011, in comparison with 75 during the same period in 2010. At CARE’s reception centre in two of the refugee camps numbers have more than doubled. In the first six months of this year, since the refugee influx began, 136 cases have been documented, compared to 66 in the same period in 2010.
“The deep psychological affects that conflict and subsequent forced displacement can have on women refugees is immense. We have witnessed high levels of anxiety, panic, trauma, and women are sharing stories of rape, violence and hunger,” said Wilson Kisiero, CARE’s gender and development coordinator in Dadaab. “CARE is providing immediate psychological support to the newly arrived women and girl refugees and we are doing all we can to ensure follow-up visits.”
The most dangerous period for refugees is when they are on the move. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to rape, abduction, illness and even death on the journey. Many women set out on the journey alone with their children, leaving husbands behind and they may walk for weeks in search of safety.
CARE has set-up a screening tent at the registration center in Dadaab to help identify survivors of sexual abuse or other violence on their journey. Upon identification, referral is made for counseling and emergency medical attention.
When women arrive in Dadaab, they face camps that are already full and are settling in a scattered, unplanned way on the outskirts of the camps. Often, before they receive tents, these women are forced to set up temporary shelters of sticks, plastic bags, or scraps of wool and cloth, wherever they can find space, often far from emergency services, such as clinics, water sites or latrines, further exasperating their vulnerability to violence.
“Without a properly designated place to settle, women and children are scared, especially at night,” said Caroline Saint-Mleux, CARE emergency team leader in Dadaab. “CARE has been working with the refugees to explain where they can receive help and is ensuring the most vulnerable households are getting the support they need. Through CARE’s partnerships on the ground, we are encouraging other groups to take into consideration the specific needs of women and children as well.”
CARE is the lead implementing agency in Dadaab. Along with its support to the refugees that have been in Dadaab since 1991, CARE is distributing food, water, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, and soap to the newly arriving refugees. CARE also provides psychological support and counseling to survivors of sexually-based violence.
CARE Canada is a member of the HUMANITARIAN COALITION. CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Québec, Plan Canada and Save the Children Canada, five of Canada’s largest relief agencies are joining together to raise funds for the delivery of safe drinking water, food, health and nutrition services, shelter materials and crucial support for families who have lost their incomes. To donate to THE HUMANITARIAN COALITION, call us toll-free at 1-800-464-9154, log onto our website at www.together.ca or send donations to THE HUMANITARIAN COALITION, P.O. Box 7023, Ottawa, ON, K1L 5A0.
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About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading international humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. In over 80 countries, CARE works with the poorest communities to improve basic health and education, enhance rural livelihoods and food security, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, help vulnerable people adapt to climate change and provide lifesaving assistance during emergencies. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls living in poverty because, equipped with the proper resources, women and girls have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. To learn more, visit www.care.ca.
About the HUMANITARIAN COALITION
With a combined presence in over 120 countries, the joint efforts by the members of the HUMANITARIAN COALITION, CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada and Save the Children Canada provide a widespread and effective response to emergencies. The group has one phone number and a joint website for online donations in order to make donating easy for Canadians.