Action needed over sexual abuse risks in refugee camps

by Lisa Jones, Plan UK | Plan UK
Friday, 29 August 2014 13:01 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

ACTION needs to be taken to prevent an increase in sexual abuse at South Sudanese refugee camps in Ethiopia, warns children’s charity Plan International.

Nearly 190,000 people from South Sudan have crossed the border into Ethiopia – with hundreds more arriving at the camps in Gambella every day. The majority are women and children.

Many are traumatised by the violence they have witnessed in their own country and continue to remain vulnerable in the camps.

“Children and women constitute 85 per cent of the refugee population and therefore need to be a priority,” says Manoj Kumar, Plan’s Country Director in Ethiopia.

“We know that children, adolescent girls in particular, are more at risk in emergency situations, and there remain gaps in education and child protection in these camps.

“A lack of intervention in these areas could lead to an increase in sexual abuse and the deterioration of the psychological well-being of children,” adds Mr Kumar.

The charity’s Because I am a Girl report ‘In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters’ found that girls are often more vulnerable to abuse in refugee camps because their particular safety needs are often overlooked.

Plan is operating in Gambella, providing safe spaces for learning and play, which are being used by more than 6,000 children. In addition, social workers have been trained in child protection.

The organisation is also focusing on education, building 17 classrooms in the camps, which are benefitting nearly 5,000 children. But they remain overcrowded, with up to 160 pupils in some classes.

Plan is currently appealing for more funds to enable more children to go to school in the camps.

For more information on Plan’s work or to make a donation call 0800 526 848 or visit