DADAAB, Kenya, Aug 8 — The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Regional Director for Africa Bunmi Makinwa has expressed concern that women and young girls are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual harassment when fleeing from Somalia to camps in Kenya.
Mr Makinwa who visited the Dadaab Camp to assess the condition on Friday urged aid partners to also focus on helping victims and survivors of sexual abuse since they require medical attention and psychosocial assistance.
“UNFPA is working with partners to offer lifesaving psychosocial assistance to women who have survived sexual violence. Indeed, UNFPA was informed by partners that many women had been subjected to rape and sexual harassment during their long journey to the camp,” he said.
While he applauded the efforts of the aid partners he was disheartened by the impoverished lives of the refugees and the struggles they have to go through in search of food.
At the same time he was gratified by the contribution of international and local organisations but also admired local efforts taken by citizens, “It was gratifying to see that Somali brothers and sisters, who have been in the camp for a long time, are sharing their limited supplies with new refugees.”
He said it was unfortunate that the famine was worsening and was affecting more and more people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somali which remains the most affected in the Horn of Africa.
“It is distressing to hear the stories of women with small children who had to walk for over 25 days to get to the refugee camp. People arrive in the camp with nothing apart from their life and the clothes they are wearing,” Mr Makinwa noted.
He said UNFPA country offices in the Horn of Africa were scaling up their efforts to ensure minimum reproductive health care for women however, because of ongoing conflict in most regions of Somalia, he said providing urgent aid to affected populations had proved to be a considerable challenge.
He called for a long-term intervention to provide for the needs of all affected communities in the region. “People are really struggling and it will take a lot of efforts to help them. But we know it is possible.”
Deputy Country Representative for Somalia Dr. Rogaia Abdelrahim who accompanied Mr Makinwa to Dadaab said, “Somalia is one of the worst places on earth for a woman to give birth because of its fragile situation and it’s failing social services,” as he explained that maternal mortality rates were among the highest in the world even before the famine.
In order to access affected populations, he said UNFPA was working with local partners in Somalia who were able to distribute medical kits to hospitals and clinics at the same time providing delivery kits to displaced pregnant women.
He said medical supplies were also being distributed to trained midwives, “The situation is so fragile and fluid that a midwife can be working today in a health facility and tomorrow she can become a refuge or an internally displaced person,” explained Dr. Abdelrahim.
Dadaab remains the world’s largest refugee settlement. Its Somali population has risen to over 400,000 people since famine was declared in the Horn of Africa. The crisis continues to affect 12.4 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Malnutrition rates continue to rise, deaths increase day by day as people fleeing the famine in Somalia enter the Kenyan border at estimates of 1,300 every day.
The Northern part of Kenya remains the most affected by the famine which has pushed corporate organisations and the media to start a campaign – Kenyans for Kenya to raise money to feed the hungry Kenyans especially in Turkana which is bearing the heaviest brunt of the hunger.
The campaign has realised over half a billion shillings.