Somali Women Facing Sexual Predation

Women in Somalia are facing the risk of rape as the number of reported cases of sexual violence has increased in the areas hardest hit by the drought in Somalia. This is an additional challenge being faced by women in Somalia, alongside the starvation effecting over one third of the population of the country. The crisis in Somalia as a whole is one that has been considered a humanitarian crisis that is possibly the worst since the end of World War II. What was already considered to be an issue in the region prior to the crisis has been exacerbated by the current drought.

According to Jean Lokenga, head of UNICEF Child Protection in Somalia, the displacement has resulted in women traveling longer distances to gather necessary resources, which, along with a lack of permanent residence, makes them vulnerable to sexual violence. The perpetrators are said to include local community members, as well as armed groups at checkpoints or camps. It is stated that the number of reported cases does not represent the full magnitude of the sexual violence faced by Somali women.

Lokenga stressed the need to treat cases of sexual violence in a way which encourages further reporting of cases. This is an important point and an issue that needs to be recognized in order to better address the increasing sexual violence being faced by Somali women. Increased services and outreach programs that target the regions of Somalia that are the hardest hit from the humanitarian crisis, which have the most vulnerable groups, would be a possible pathway to more effectively address these problems.

On February 28 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared a national disaster in Somalia, a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the risk of the country having a third famine in the last 25 years. The drought has had a significant toll on various regions of Somalia. This includes dead cattle, dry wells, and empty fields. Many Somalis have left their homes to head to towns and cities. Even in a best case scenario, aid workers estimate, based on the prior 2011 famine, that the death toll by the end of the year could be at least 60,000 people.

The increasing prevalence and risk of sexual violence that has been occurring, along with the effects of the drought in Somalia, is ultimately a major destabilizing force that further deteriorates the standard of living and the health of already highly vulnerable peoples. These challenges, along with the other problems related or heightened by the drought, highlight the need for further assistance and programs that target those areas of concern.