Girls and young women in Kenya are facing serious and increased risks of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) amid fears of a sixth successive year of drought and an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
A survey by child rights NGO Plan International carried out in Marsabit County, northern Kenya, found incidents of rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, and sexual harassment are reported to be on the rise amid an ongoing food and water scarcity crisis.
One in 10 (10.9%) personally knew of a girl or woman who had suffered sexual or gender-based violence in the six months before the survey.
The report found that the humanitarian crisis is being compounded for women and girls by a lack of readily available support services for survivors of gender-based violence, with just one in 10 of the respondents saying they were aware of available services for those experiencing sexual violence or other personal security violations.
Despite the arrival of the ‘long rains’ last month, rainfall this year is forecast to be below average, leading to fears of an unprecedented sixth successive year of failed rains across the Horn of Africa – with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia worst hit.
Across Marsabit County – which is part of Kenya’s arid region and one of the areas hardest hit by the prolonged drought – the government of Kenya now estimates that 98% of open water sources are depleted.
Of the families interviewed by Plan International, nine out of 10 households reported they were forced to limit portions at mealtimes and reduce the number of meals they eat daily.
Alarmingly, for six out of 10 households interviewed the nearest water source was more than an hour away from their homes, meaning they face journeys of over two hours daily to collect water.
These journeys often fall on girls and women, placing them at increased risk along insecure routes where they may face sexual harassment and violence.
The report and gender-based analysis are based on interviews with 460 households (on average, each household was made up of 7.8 people) in Marsabit County, with key findings including:
Plan International Kenya Country Director George Otim said that this report reveals that girls and women are bearing the brunt of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, a situation that demands urgent international attention.
“Girls and young women in Kenya need support now to ensure they are able to access education and health, without the ongoing threats of gender-based violence as they go about their daily lives in what are already extremely difficult circumstances.”
“As well as dealing with crippling food and water scarcity following years of drought, girls and young women are enduring increasing rates of gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and lack of access to basic menstrual health needs.”
The report’s recommendations highlight the need for gender-based responses to food insecurity, improved access to water and sanitation facilities, increased services to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, investment in schools and school-based meal programs, and sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls.