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UN concerned about sexual violence against those fleeing Somalia

(Xinhua)

10:47, August 12, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Margot Wallstrom, UN Under- Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said here Thursday that she is concerned about reports of sexual violence against the Somali women and girls fleeing to Kenya.

"As the ongoing famine in Somalia worsens, I am deeply concerned about reports of sexual violence in the wake of the mass exodus from Somalia to Kenya," she said. "Conflict, drought, and displacement have heightened the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence."

The drought-induced famine in several regions of southern Somalia has driven 120,000 Somalis out of their homeland to refugee camps in neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia.

"During the long and perilous journey from Somalia to the camps in Kenya, women and girls are subjected to attacks, including rape, by armed militants and bandits," Wallstrom said.

"Once they cross the Somalia-Kenya border or reach Dadaab -- the world's largest refugee settlement -- their hopes of finding a safe haven are often overshadowed by new dangers and hardships, including the risk of rape," she continued.

Wallstrom said she commended the Kenyan authorities for welcoming the Somalis, and urged donors to help the Kenyan government, UN actors, and regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in their efforts to prevent and give a hand to the victims of sexual violence.

"There is an urgent need for services to be provided to survivors of sexual violence and for effective camp management to minimize the risks facing women and girls," she said. "We should also improve monitoring and reporting on sexual violence to better inform our actions."

According to Wallstrom, there have also been reports of rape by militias allied with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government ( TFG), while other reports reveal that Al-Shabaab, a Somali Islamist armed group and rival of the TFG, has also been abducting girls and forcing them to marry the group's fighters.

"I call on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease these gross violations of human rights," Wallstrom urged.

The under-secretary-general holds fighting the impunity for sexual violence in conflict her "top priority," and said that her office will continue to closely monitor the situation in the Horn of Africa and in other conflict areas.

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