Baydhabo (AxadleTM)At the beginning of the year, conditions for Somalia gradually worsened, as its climate, which is susceptible to drought, was heading towards famine.
By the start of March, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced that 110 people had died as a result of hunger and diarrhoea.
Since then, over half of the Somali population has been left acutely food insecure and displaced as a result.
For many women, however, the ordeal does not stop at poverty and displacement. Stories of women being subject to sexual violence in displacement camps are becoming all the more common.
“Mentally, I can see him,” Hawo said, recalling the late-night March assault in Dusta, a camp in the southwestern city of Baidoa for Somalis displaced by drought and hunger.
She described him as “thin but strong,” wearing a new uniform and boots.
He forced his way into her home, which was made of sticks, plastic and old fabrics and raped her twice, while Hawo’s youngest child, a breast-feeding baby, cried while her two other children remained asleep.
Most of those living in Dusta are women and children from Shabaab-controlled areas who came to the regional capital in search of food, water and medical care.
Figures from local NGOs show at least 54 displaced women raped and sexually assaulted in camps throughout 2017, which are concentrated around the Baidoa region. This is where the UN has opened a drought operations coordination centre to address the famine.
Despite rape becoming more prominent in camps, residents are left vulnerable with no protection from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Somali army and police, nor the UN police. Women are left defenceless and forced to defend themselves.
Muhudin Daud Isack, who works for Isha, a local human rights organisation, said the majority of the assailants were soldiers, using the threat of their weapons and the power of their uniforms against the displaced women.
However, civilian men have also been suspected of rape.
Farhiyo Ahmed Mohamed, a Somali police officer who heads a special Gender Unit, acknowledges that men in uniform have been involved in such attacks.
She points to a case of rape earlier this year in the town of Goof Gaduud, outside Baidoa, in which a soldier was convicted and jailed.
She then accused NGOs of lying about the rate of rape in the camps to get more funding and denied the camps were unsafe, despite the evidence piling against her claims.