A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals high levels of sexual and physical violence committed against women and girls in the Pabbo camp for internally displaced persons (IDP), Uganda’s largest war refugee camp. The study, “Suffering in Silence: A Study of Sexual and Gender Based Violence,” found that 60 percent of women in Pabbo have experienced some form of sexual or physical violence. The three most common forms of violence were rape, child abuse, and physical assault committed by male friends, soldiers, and spouses.
In a country that has been at war for over 19 years, with over a million people currently displaced, at least 70 percent of the 67,000 people seeking refuge in the Pabbo IDP camp are women and children, according to Reuters. The UNICEF study was commissioned in coordination with the Gulu District’s Sub-Committee on Sexual and Gender-based Violence to examine the scope of violence against women in Ugandan refugee camps and to identify means of addressing this violence.
The UNICEF report faults a “culture of silence” surrounding the reporting and response to sexual violence as one among many factors, including poverty and lack of civilian security, that have contributed to high rates of violence against women and girls in Pabbo IDP. Martin Mogwanja, a UNICEF representative in Uganda, indicated UNICEF’s commitment to improving the situation for women and girls, saying that the agency will work to improve police response, as well health care for victims, both key areas identified for improvement in the report.