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Somali women face rape and sexual assault in refugee camps

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Summary of story from Voice of America, August 3, 2011

Women fleeing conflict and famine in Somalia are facing another threat to their live –  sexual assault.

As they make the long journey from their homes to the world’s largest refugee complex at Dadaab, Kenya, women are at risk of being attacked and raped, sometimes repeatedly, by armed military bandits.

The violence does not stop when they reach the camp. More and more refugees are fleeing to the camp, and with the rising numbers, many women  build shelters farther away from the center of the camps, which makes them more vulnerable to attacks.

William Spindler a UNHCR (United Nations Human Rights Commission for Refugees) spokesperson in Dadaab, Kenya, says rape is a very under reported crime even in developed countries.

At present, he says, there are no accurate figures on the number of women who are raped and sexually assaulted either in the camps or while travelling to them.

He added: “We also know that women are very vulnerable when they go out into the bush looking for firewood.  In many cases that is when they are attacked.”

He explained that his agency is providing women with firewood so they won’t have to go out looking for it.

He added,  “It doesn’t matter how many precautions we take, there is still a lot of insecurity here in Dadaab because of the proximity to the Somali border.

“Many armed people from Somalia are causing a lot of problems with security in and around Dadaab.”

There is an urgent need to find accommodation for 90,000 people.  Spindler said, “We are providing emergency accommodations in the form of tents and as of yesterday (August 1), more than 10,000 people have been moved to these tents.”

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