Somali Refugees Facing Rape Threats in Drought-Hit Kenya

It seems almost unimaginable that Somali refugees could be facing other threats to their human security beyond famine, extremism, and war. However, increasingly, Somali females seeking refuge in neighboring Kenya are also adding rape and harassment to their range of insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Kenya is already home to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, and the country is facing a continuing influx of refugees from Somalia. Estimates suggest that up to 1,300 people flee Somalia a day, while Kenya is already host to 500,000 Somalis.

Somalis travel across a vast and unforgiving desert for days before they can even make it into Kenya’s vast border.

With such a massive inflow of vulnerable Somali’s into Kenya, criminals and gang members are taking advantage of the sheer numbers to rape, harass, and kill the refugees.

Many families lose children and family members along the way and some cross the border only to find armed criminals and gang members waiting to loot them of anything they can, including their bodies.

Kenyan officials are arguing that they simply lack the manpower to halt the crimes against the refugees.

Women are being raped in front of their families and gangsters are forcing family members to rape their own women or face death.

Wilson Kisiero of CARE International has said of the rapes and violence, “It is a human tragedy. I don’t even have a word to describe it.”

When refugee women arrive to the relative safety of the camp, they are not necessarily safe, reports have indicated.

Refugee women receive food that must be cooked to be eaten, however, they are not given the firewood needed to cook their meals.

Thus women that have already risked their lives are once are forced to venture out of camps to find firewood and risk potential rape and harassment.

The international community and several aid agencies have condemned both the problems of rape and lack of fuel given to refugees that need to cook their food.

Some agencies such as the Women's Refugee Commission are working with the Kenyan government to ensure that fuel is being provided in the camps while the United Nations Population Fund has been working to provide psychosocial assistance to survivors of rape.