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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During their weekly meetings at the UN compound, seated under a tent flanked by fans and two refrigerators, dozens of representatives report on their week’s activities: problems with the Haitian National Police, how to connect groups doing GBV work outside Port-au-Prince, what to do about the virtually nonexistent judicial system.
Most of the participating groups started their programs after the quake, unaware of the gains made in the movement to prevent rape, due in large part to three pioneers conspicuously absent at the table: Magalie Marcelin, Myriam Merlet, and Anne Marie Coriolan. They were killed in the quake.
The organizations which they founded, Women’s House (Kay Fanm) and Solidarity with Haitian Women (SOFA), continue to provide multiple services, including psychological support, medical aid, and safety.
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Along with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), they are training the Haitian National Police (often suspected perpetrators of gender-based violence) on protocol for receiving victims and will be providing them with transport needs for rapid response.
They are also working with students from the state university who hold self-defense clinics in the camp.
In partnership with the Haitian government and other groups, they have distributed thousands of postcards that list places to go for psychological and medical follow-up support.
Their biggest challenge, says UNIFEM’s Andrée Gilbert, is being able to respond to the increased need. “We are working on collecting data on the number of victims," she says. "But if what we are hearing is correct, we don’t have the capacity to respond.”
The teenager raped two weekends ago knows that all too well. She’s still looking for a place to sleep.
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