The Hidden Side of the Famine: Violence Against Women and Girls Fleeing Somalia

Situation Report
Originally published


Famine in Somalia has led to a crisis situation in the Horn of Africa as populations flee the worst drought in almost six decades. While violence against women and girls is often associated with war, natural disasters can bring equally severe risks. As they flee Somalia to safety, women and girls are passing areas where armed groups and bandits roam -- only to arrive in crowded and potentially dangerous camps. The protection aspects of this crisis are acute and life-threatening, yet have been largely ignored

The UN has indicated that on average 1,200 Somalis are arriving in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp each day. The three camps in Dadaab – Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera – were built for 90,000 and are now hosting four times that population. As the camp services buckle under the strain of growing numbers, competition for basic goods and amenities pose severe risks to women and girls. For female refugees arriving in recent weeks, the situation is dire. Housed in outskirt areas of the established camps, they live in ad-hoc settlements that lack security, safe spaces for women and girls, and basic services such as water and latrines.

Violence Against Women and Girls:

A July 2011 IRC assessment reveals that women and girls fleeing to Dadaab are facing pervasive and severe threats of violence, both enroute and in the camps. Single women, female-headed households and adolescent girls are most at risk.

Rape and sexual violence were identified as the most pressing concern for women and girls while fleeing Somalia and as an ongoing, though lesser, concern in the camps. In June 2011, IRC’s GBV program witnessed a fourfold increase in reporting of sexual violence compared with figures from January to May, many referred from the reception centre in Hagadera