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Bitter Harvest Of Darfur - Babies Born Of Rape

UN Agency Seeks To Protect Bitter Harvest Of Darfur Conflict - Babies Born Of Rape

Dozens of babies are being born in Darfur to mothers raped during the ongoing conflict in western Sudan and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working to ensure that both mothers and children are not discriminated against, and have opportunities for education and access to health care.

“They must have an opportunity to be integrated into a larger society and not face discrimination as a result of being the victim of sexual violence,” said UNICEF’s adviser on sexual violence, Pamela Shifman. A recent UN report into war crimes in the region highlighted widespread attacks on women and girls, some as young as 10, in the two-year conflict between Government and rebel forces in which more than 2.5 million people have been affected and marauding Janjaweed militias have forced communities to abandon their villages and flee to urban areas or camps in neighbouring Chad.

Sexual violence is used in war to humiliate and weaken communities and the report describes how in Kutum in March 2004, for example, 150 soldiers and Janjaweed abducted and raped 16 girls. The legacy of such atrocities lives on when babies are born and there is a fear among humanitarian aid workers that young mothers and their children could be ostracized as a result of what they’ve been through.

“What we know in Darfur, like many places in the world, often the women and the girls who are raped feel shame,” Ms. Shifman said. “They experience stigma, discrimination as a result of the rape. So UNICEF is working to ensure that the stigma of the rape is attached to the perpetrator where it belongs and not to the women and girls who are the victims. And this extends to children who are born as a result of rape.”

She noted that the communities she talked with in Darfur insisted that they would not ostracize rape victims and the children born under these circumstances. But the children may be closely monitored while growing up for any characteristics that resemble their violent fathers, she added.

She said one of the main concerns women and girls raise is the constant threat of rape they face when they leave camp to collect firewood. “Darfur is largely a desert and women and girls are walking for miles and miles to collect enough firewood to feed themselves and their families,” she explained.

To minimize the exposure of women and girls to attack, UNICEF is working to develop locally produced, fuel-effective stoves which use much less firewood. These would cut down the time spent outside the relative safety of the camps.

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