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Sexual violence against children hits Benue IDP camps

A safety audit carried out by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Benue State has revealed incidences of…

A safety audit carried out by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Benue State has revealed incidences of sexual violence against children living in the camps.

According to the audit, the violence cases were recorded in terms of sexual harassment and abuse.

The findings were made known at the weekend when thousands of IDPs, mainly children, and their caregivers, in three camps of Guma LGA of the state, benefitted from UNICEF interventions on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, (SGBV), Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, (MHPSS).

UNICEF in collaboration with its local partners, JASPI Health and Gender Development Initiative and Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, (BERWASSA), handed over the materials to the IDPs.

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It called on the state government, donor partners and stakeholders to double efforts to curtail issues of sexual and gender-based violence in the camps in the state.

The Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Victor Atuchukwu, who made the observation known at the Ortese camp harped on one of the core mandates of UNICEF in ensuring that children and women are protected everywhere, anywhere, and anytime.

He said the intervention was focused on preventing and responding to SGBV in IDP camps and that for the beginning three IDP camps in Guma LGA; Ortese, Uikpam, and Mbawa were chosen as beneficiaries.

Atuchukwu further noted that they (UNICEF) carried out a safety audit in August 2023, to understand the situation of IDPs in terms of safety and protection of women, children, and girls in these IDP camps and that during the audit, incidences of violence against children in terms of sexual harassment and abuse were recorded.

He added that in order to sustain protection and prevention of violence against children, UNICEF made the communities buy into the programme.

“With this, we engaged the community members, camp chairmen, and camp managers as well as the government actors and we discussed the findings from the auditing.

“From August till now, we engaged with the local partner, JASPI to have this intervention and one of the key achievements of the programme is the communities owning the process. Now, we have the presence of BERWASA, Doctors Without Border Medicines and Frontieres, (MSF), and the community being in the front and I think this will bring a lasting solution,” Atuchukwu said.

The Executive Director of JASPI Health and Gender Development Initiative, Doosuurshater Agbata, said they have done training and sensitization on GBV, SGBV, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, (MHPSS) in the three camps. Agbata said they trained 43 social workers; 22 people from the camp and 21 social workers on response and protection for MHPSS, GBV, SGBV, and parenting.

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