15 June 2005 Rape is the most common form of violence in a northern Uganda camp for 67,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is calling for tougher policies against sexual assault and strengthened health and counselling services for victims.
"Suffering in Silence: A Study of Sexual and Gender-based Violence," a survey of Pabbo IDP Camp co-sponsored by UNICEF and Gulu District, finds that girls aged 13 to 17 are most frequently reported as victims of sexual violence, followed by women aged 19 to 36 and children aged 4 to 9.
Progress will be made when everyone in the community commits to forming a protective environment to shelter children from harm, UNICEF Representative in Uganda Martin Mogwanja said.
"Tackling sexual violence, and particularly violence against children, means recognizing when a child is being subjected to violence and providing the child a reliable system of help to turn to," he said.
"Whether it is in Pabbo, or anywhere else, everyone must be at the frontline of this effort – parents, caregivers, camp leaders, health workers, teachers, counsellors, the police, district local governments, religious leaders and community groups, NGOs and the UN. All these duty-bearers must fulfil their responsibilities to children," he said.
The study notes a "culture of silence" in reporting sexual violence due to such factors as distrust of authorities, lack of confidence in law enforcement and the fear of stigmatization.
Pabbo camp was established in 1986 to shelter people fleeing from the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighting the Ugandan Government. Its population includes 48,000 women and children.