From the outset of the emergency in Gedaref State, humanitarian partners worked together to prevent, mitigate, and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) as a critical element of the refugee response. The risk of SEA inherent in refugee settings, where refugees are in an underlying situation of vulnerability, has been compounded by the absence of functioning Prevention of SEA (PSEA) mechanisms in the State before the onset of the crisis in Tigray when there was limited to no humanitarian presence in the State. In addition, a series of occurrences heightened vulnerability, including harsh weather destroying shelters, interruptions of food distributions for two months, and the remoteness of refugee-hosting locations.
The Refugee Coordination Forum and partners have a zero-tolerance policy on SEA. A PSEA Working Group (WG) was formed in Gedaref at the onset of the emergency and became fully operational in August 2021. Its main objective is to ensure all partners share the same understanding of the risks of SEA identified in the refugee camps and are fully informed to enable a unified response. A set of PSEA training sessions have been conducted and PSEA focal points for all organizations nominated.
To inform PSEA response and develop an action plan with concrete deliverables, UNHCR and partners conducted a PSEA risk assessment in several refugee locations in Gedaref State to identify risks and gaps and to inform the drafting of the PSEA standard operating procedures (SOPs) and action plan.