Wakimbizi wakataa chakula cha msaada Uganda

Kurzweil

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May 25, 2011
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UGANDA: Wakimbizi wa ndani Kaskazini mwa Uganda wakataa chakula cha msaada kutoka kwa serikali, kwa madai kuwa chakula hicho kimewekwa sumu.

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Conflict in South Sudan has seen more than 950,000 people flee to neighboring Uganda in an effort to escape famine, slaughter and rape.

Of the new arrivals that cross into the supposed safety of Ugandan refugee camps, around 86 percent are women and children, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees.

They are running from an on-off civil war that has seen soldiers on both sides murder civilians without compunction -- including girls and women who are first raped.

The victims of sexual violence who reach Uganda often suffer the trauma in silence and even after they leave their villages and towns in South Sudan they are still at risk of further violence.

“That violence sometimes continues on their way to the settlement or is even perpetrated within the settlement,” UN Population Fund (UNPFA) Country Director Alain Sibenaler told Anadolu Agency.

In the camps along the White Nile in northern Uganda, many women tell of abuse not just at the hands of soldiers in South Sudan but also from their husbands.

Charity Goro Loko, 35, sells fish in the market in Maaji, a refugee settlement in Adjumani district, to provide for her five children and three brothers.

Apart from running away from the war, she had to escape the threat of being killed by her own husband.

Last December, a group of soldiers came to her home in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

“They were four in number,” Goro said. “They walked into my house and one of them started raping me as the other three stood guard.”


- Forced to leave

After stealing all the money she had -- 500 South Sudanese pounds, the equivalent of around 15 U.S. cents -- they left.

When Goro told her husband, also a soldier, what had happened he threw her out. “He forced me to leave and said if I stayed he would kill me,” she told Anadolu Agency.

In February, a famine was declared in parts of South Sudan. The humanitarian crisis is man-made and driven by the conflict that broke out in 2013.

At least 100,000 people are affected by the famine and 1 million more face immediate risk. More than 5 million could be affected in the coming weeks.

Uganda, with support from the UNFPA and other donor agencies, has set up 17 centers within refugee camps for women who have suffered violence.

“We have about 20,000 women that have visited our center,” Alain said. “Those are women that report. It’s very difficult to know how many more there are who have remained silent.”

The centers have 38 healthcare staff, including doctors, specialized nurses and midwives trained on managing the aftermath of rape.

Okot Bosco Anthony, a community worker in the Pagirinya settlement, supports abused women.

“I receive at least one woman every day that have either been beaten or raped and I accompany them to the police to record statements and [to] the health center,” he said.

Among them is 30-year-old Gonne Sunday, who has two children from a previous marriage and five from her current husband, who beats and rapes her.


- Cultural bias

“When he finds me giving food to all my children, he beats me and the two who are not his, saying they should not eat here,” a tearful Gonne told Anadolu Agency. “He rapes me and leaves.”

Gonne, who lives in a makeshift mud and wattle house covered with plastic sheeting, said she had lost her hearing in one ear due to the beatings.

“One day he beat me, broke my wrist and I was taken to hospital in Adjumani,” she explained. “On my return, he raped me. While [he was] at it, he said ‘I want to see who is going to come rescue you.’”

According to the UNFPA’s Alaine, the situation for women is made worse by a cultural bias against them.

“That is the most difficult part because you can’t always be present at all times,” he said. “Impunity is not easy to deal with.”

Uganda’s Minister for Refugees Musa Ecweru said the country is trying to stamp out sexual violence in the camps.

“When they struggle for resources in areas such as water points, they become susceptible to all sorts of abuses,” he said.

Apart from providing counselling to victims, Ecweru said the government has adopted a hard line against abusers, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to the death penalty.

“I have told them that in the event that we arrest you raping or defiling [women], we will not treat you as a refugee, we will treat you as a criminal and a law breaker.”
 

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