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Rape – the hidden side of the famine crisis in Africa


Summary of story from IPS Africa, October 5, 2011

Aisha Diis left her Somali village of Kismayu with her five children for the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya’s North Eastern Province in April. Along the way, she was raped along with two of the women she was with.

“We were ambushed by a group of five men who stripped us naked and raped us repeatedly,” Diis told IPS. “It is something I have not been able to forget. But I wouldn’t like my children to know about it.”

“Gender-based violence is a hidden side of the famine crisis,” said Sinead Murray, the gender-based violence programme manager for the International Rescue Committee  at Dadaab.

But Diis, and the two women who were raped with her, are some of the few Somali women who reported the violence they have been subjected to on their journey to Dadaab.

In Diis’ case, she was brave enough to do so because she is a widow, and does not fear recrimination from her family as other women do.

“Many women are assaulted on their way to the refugee camp by unknown armed men, especially when travelling in a group without men,” said Ann Burton, a senior public health officer at the United Nations Refugee Agency at Dadaab.

“However, most of them are reluctant to report such cases since they fear that their families will blame them, communities will reject them or simply because they feel ashamed to talk about it.”

Diis said “after I reported my case I was given some medicine, and I was monitored for three months after which I was informed that I had not contracted HIV. That was one of my biggest concerns”. She also received counselling.

Once they arrive at Dadaab some women continue to experience gender-based violence from their intimate partners. Murray said this includes early marriages and survival sex – where women are forced to exchange sex for access to basic needs.

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