Haiti relief workers try to stem rape in refugee camps
As if providing food, shelter, and postquake health services wasn't tough enough, Haiti relief workers are also focusing on keeping women from being raped as frustrations grow in Port-au-Prince's tent cities.
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Just minutes after she zipped up her tent flap to turn in for the night, she heard it unzip. Five men she’d never seen before entered and told her that her evening was just about to begin.
When they were done beating and raping her, she crawled to a friend’s tent, but her friend told her it wasn’t safe to stay, so, bruised and frightened, she inched her way back home. Only at the urging of others did she eventually seek medical attention.
The bite on her face is fading, but the psychological scars she has suffered may be harder to heal.
The case of this teenager – who declined to be named for this article – is not uncommon in Haiti’s postquake atmosphere, where security for women is tenuous at best.
Women make up more than half the population, 67 percent of whom are single heads of household. Daily rituals such as collecting water can be a risk since the rule of law is all but absent now. Lack of legal rights, inadequate support services, impunity, and dependency – all issues before the earthquake – have become exponentially worse since the Jan. 12 temblor leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 and displacing more than 1 million.
How many have been raped?
The precise number of rape and domestic violence victims is difficult to determine, even with the increased presence of foreign and international medical organizations working in the camps.
Just two months after the quake, outreach workers tracked some 230 cases in 15 camps. Today there are more than 1,300 camps.
Doctors from International Medical Corps say they see at least one rape victim a day in the camps where they work.
“We’ve seen over 200 cases ourselves since the quake,” says Eramithe Delva, program director of a grass-roots organization known as KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim. “And for every one case reported, there are multiple others that are not.”
Help is on the way
More than 200 organizations, part of the Gender Based Violence (GBV) cluster from the United Nations, are working to improve conditions for women.