Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is among areas with increased cases of child sexual offences in Africa according to a new report released on Tuesday.
A report by Save the Children, a non-government organisation (NGO) notes that girls and boys under the age of 18 and living in Dadaab refugee camp near the Kenya - Somalia border have been frequent victims of sexual violence.
In its new report Unspeakable Crimes Against Children, children are often molested when fetching water and firewood, most of which are activities conducted away from the security of their camps.
Others most vulnerable is refugee camps include orphans or children separated from their parents.
“This can be a result of the death of one or both parents, or the children may be sent to live elsewhere in the belief that they will be safer or have better education and other facilities,” the report released on Tuesday read.
Early child marriage
Save the Children, which has been running a child protection programme in Dadaab refugee camp since 2006, also reported that early marriage of young girls as early as 13 years is widespread.
In the report, an adolescent girl recounted how men would offer parents their 'daily bread' in return for marrying them.
Rape survivors at the camp reported that they were forced to get married to the offenders for fear of being rejected by their families and friends.
They noted that some of the worst punishments for refusing to get married to the offenders would include being sent back to Somalia or be killed.
“Although less apparent, sexual violence against boys is still common. However, both boys and girls are often reluctant to report the crime because of the social stigma and fear of retribution,” the report said.
The report also shared a number of testimonies from victims and witnesses from other countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Mali and Colombia, where children were abused by armed forces and rebel groups.
The report also highlights incidents of children as young as two years old being attacked by opportunistic sexual offenders including teachers, religious leaders, peacekeepers and family members.
However, the organisation further warned that reliable data on the issue is limited, as much sexual abuse goes unreported.
The figures collated in the report indicate that children frequently make up the majority of sexual abuse victims in wars and its aftermath.
“For example, a study in Liberia, a nation still recovering from a vicious civil war that ended a decade ago – found that more than 80 per cent of the victims of the gender based violence in 2011/12 were younger than 17. Almost all of them were raped,” the report stated.
"It is shocking that in conflict zones around the world, children are being raped and abused at such an appalling rate. Sexual violence is one of the hidden horrors of war and the damage it wreaks ruins lives,” said Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s Chief Executive during the launch of the report.
He explained that if they recover from the physical effects of their experiences, many victims carry the psychological scars of their ordeal for the rest of their lives, and are often cast out from society.