If it is not one bad thing, it can be another. I have been writing so much about the drought in the Horn of Africa. However, I have discovered that the problem is much more than a lack of food. It is the trip itself to the food that is dangerous. Some women have been forcibly raped at gunpoint as they travel to the camps. And there are no doors to hide behind at the camps themselves. And it is not only dangerous for the people trying to get food—it is also dangerous for those trying to deliver it. Most deliveries are made with the protection of armed guards. Our relief workers go in with a prayer. Please pray for rain. Please pray for protection.
Isaiah Esipisu tells the following story:
“When Aisha Diis and her five children fled their home in Somalia seeking aid from the famine devastating the region, she could not have known the dangers of the journey, or even fathom that she would be raped along the way.
“Diis left her village of Kismayu, southwest of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, for the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya’s North Eastern Province in April.
“I was in a group of many women and children, but four of us had come from the same village, hence, we related (to each other) as one family. Along the way, we stopped to make some strong tea since the children were feeling very tired and hungry. One woman remained behind with the children and the three of us went to search for firewood,” Diis told.
“We were ambushed by a group of five men who stripped us naked and raped us repeatedly,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “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 (GBV) program manager for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at Dadaab.
“As per the rapid assessment done on GBV in Dadaab released by the IRC in July, rape and sexual violence were mentioned as the most pressing concern for women and girls while fleeing Somalia and as an ongoing, though lesser concern, in the camps,” Murray told.
“Some women interviewed during (the IRC) survey said they witnessed women and girls being raped in front of their husbands and parents, at the insistence of perpetrators described as ‘men with guns.’ Others were forced to strip down naked, and in the event they were raped by multiple perpetrators,” said Murray.
As hope can be brought by food overcoming hunger, let’s also hope that the love we bring can overcome the violence too.