Aid Group: Displaced Children in Great Lakes Region of Africa at Risk of Sexual Abuse
March 5, 2007
In a report released recently in Uganda, the aid group World Vision said 1.4 million children have been displaced by war in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Half of those children are victims of sexual exploitation, according to the report.
The report focuses on the lives of refugee and internally displaced children in camps in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, northern Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to researcher Valarie Vat Kamatsiko, the children live in abject poverty that makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
"Children are compelled to have sex in exchange of money to go to hospital, to buy food, even sometimes for their families," Kamatsiko said. She noted the most common predators are foster parents, teacher, neighbors, and immediate community members; victims are most often teenage girls or orphans.
Kamatsiko said the situation is exacerbated by a breakdown in law and order in some places, few or no support systems, and negative cultural practices such as forcing girls to marry early so their families can collect a "bride price" from the groom's family.
The report urges governments to formulate and implement policies to protect and help displaced people, ensure children have access to basic health care and education, and reunite children with their families.
"These displacements are caused by conflict," Kamatsiko said. "Therefore, there is a need to put conflict resolution, reconciliation, and peace efforts at the forefront. We also call on international organizations, the donors, to increase humanitarian assistance, because the problem is huge, and yet the resources are limited."
The Great Lakes region has been in conflict for years, with civil wars, genocide, and rebel activity causing widespread displacement and suffering.
Voice of America News
02.28.07; Cathy Majtenyi
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.