International Medical Corps is launching a program to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) among Somali refugees living in southeastern Ethiopia. The program, funded by the U.S. government’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), will build local capacity to effectively prevent and manage cases of SGBV and sexual exploitation and abuse in Boqolmayo, a camp of approximately 15,000 Somali refugees.
“The SGBV program comes at a critical time. The United Nations refugee agency estimates that 60 people – most of them women and children – pour into Boqolmayo every day,” says Dr. Messeret Shifferaw, International Medical Corps Deputy Country Director for Ethiopia. “Resources are becoming increasingly strained and refugees have little opportunity to make a living. The stress of refugee life often changes family dynamics, leaving households more prone to SGBV. Limited resources can also expose women and children to sexual exploitation because they have to travel outside the camp to find necessities like food and water.”
The program uses a two-pronged approach to both prevent new and manage existing SGBV cases. To prevent SGBV, International Medical Corps will train 200 refugee representatives, including clan elders, religious leaders, and women’s associations, to mobilize their communities against gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. To enable better treatment, International Medical Corps will educate health, humanitarian, and social workers on how to manage SGBV cases and provide the appropriate mental health support. The goal is to mobilize at least a third of the refugee population against SGBV through this effort over the next 12 months.
Since 2003, International Medical Corps has operated a multi-faceted program in more than eight zones across three regions in Ethiopia, developing local capacities and delivering services in HIV/AIDS and infectious disease, reproductive health, nutrition and psychosocial support, maternal and child health, water and sanitation, and livelihood security. International Medical Corps also runs SGBV awareness campaigns in the DOllo Odo Transit Center, the reception point for all refugees coming into Ethiopia, and recently implemented a year-long SGBV program in the northern Somali camps of Sheder, Kebrebeyah, and AwBare.