Young girls primary victims of humanitarian strife

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Girls are the primary victims of humanitarian crises, suffering abuse from forced marriage to denial of schooling and are “14 times more likely to die than boys in a conflict,” the Plan International NGO said Sunday.

The group will Monday unveil at the United Nations conclusions from three investigations into the fate of youngsters — ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, a second group in the Chad Basin and a third in South Sudan, “three particularly unstable regions,” in the NGO’s words.

Its research details “forced marriage, kidnappings, violence, sexual abuse, slavery” and a huge lack in education opportunities.

In crowded refugee camps in Uganda the group interviewed 249 girls aged 10 to 19 from South Sudan who described “a continuum of violence having become the norm in the home and in the community.”

“That is not surprising because the conflict in South Sudan has been characterised by rampant cruelty, including levels of extreme violence against women and children,” the report said. The NGO added that “one adolescent in four considered suicide at least once” in the year preceding the study.

Seventy-seven percent also said they did not have enough food to eat.

In Chad Basin, which Plan International described as being caught in one of the world’s most serious humanitarian crises, one in three teenagers questioned said they did not feel safe at home, one in five had been beaten in the month preceding the investigation and one in ten had suffered sexual abuse.

Of 449 girls the NGO interviewed in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, two thirds were separated from their fathers due to conflict and in 30 percent of cases from both parents.

Sixty-two percent said they lacked food meaning they had to seek work in the black economy or travel large distances in order to seek firewood or water, in so doing opening themselves up to the further possibility of harassment or violence.

Insecurity acted as a brake on educational advancement with many girls afraid of what might befall them on the way to school.

Also limiting their schooling were factors such as premature or forced marriages, with many girls being married off as early as 14 or 15. In Niger, three quarters of girls are married before the age of 18.

Rohingya girls stuck in a refugee camp over the Bangladeshi border at Cox’s Bazar are also deprived of education. Almost two-thirds said they lack schooling due to a multitude of reasons including hunger, beatings, rape, kidnapping and forced prostitution.

One in five girls aged between 13 and 15 endured forced marriages, Plan International added.

One girl facing marriage to somebody she said she did not know commented “they couldn’t do it in Myanmar but they can here”.

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