Gender & SGBVNewsSGBV

Health Risk, SGBV Increases As Drought Continues In Kenya

As drought and hunger intensifies in the Horn of Africa, violence against women and girls worsens.

Lack of potable water as the drought season lengthens is increasing the risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) for women and girls in Kenya as they are burdened with walking long distances to fetch water, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has revealed.

In some areas, about 90 per cent of water points have dried up as four rainy seasons have consecutively failed in two years. The international community has also warned that a fifth rainy season from October to December is likely to fail.

More than 4 million people are currently facing acute hunger. According to the UNFPA, hundreds of thousands have been forced to move in search of survival, leaving vulnerable women and girls with little to no access to critical health facilities or protection and support services at the very time they need them the most.

Elimlim Ingola, 39, tells the organisation her experience battling the extreme weather conditions, “we have to walk for more than 7 kilometres to find water, and sometimes what we find isn’t safe to drink.”

The humanitarian crisis has also worsened since Russia’s war in Ukraine has prevented wheat importation to the country. Wheat is a staple commodity. 

Lack of adequate health care, protection and support services has also undermined maternal, menstrual and their general health. Jackline Njomoni, a clinical officer at Samburu County Referral Hospital, said in the report that women and girls are heavily impacted by the extreme weather conditions. “We have seen an increase in gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage during the drought. Families are cutting their girls and marrying them off to pay for food or to re-stock cattle.”

With rise of teenage pregnancies, pregnancy complications and mental illnesses, the UNFPA is engaging women and girls in Lokapararai, a community in the country, through series of sessions that aims to improve their wellness including the distribution of hygiene kits, and health supplies to support new mothers with postnatal care.

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