South Sudan: Women at Risk of Sexual Violence in Refugee Camps
Monday, July 15, 2013 9:25 AM

Fighting between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North began two years ago and an estimated 112,000 displaced persons have since entered refugee camps in South Sudan. The majority of the displaced persons—over 80%—are women and children, many of whose husbands and fathers remain in Sudan.
These large, heavily populated refugee camps are a dangerous environment for women. They must walk long distances each day to collect food and firewood for their families, during which time they are at risk of harassment, exploitation, and sexual violence. Refugees often face violence from residents of the host community where the camps are located and may be denied access to local resources such as firewood.
Although sexual violence and gender violence are a reality for women in these camps, many assaults go unreported. Victims are reluctant to disclose the violence because the subject is culturally taboo and many women fear they will be stigmatized if they report the violence against them. In an effort to encourage reporting and ensure women’s access to mental and physical health services, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a series of programs in the camps, including one aimed at spreading information about services available for survivors of gender based violence. Another program will teach the women how to use firewood more efficiently and thereby reduce the frequency of trips women must take to gather wood. Other humanitarian groups are also exploring ways to make the women less vulnerable to exploitation by helping them become more economically independent.