Nairobi, July 5 (IANS) Women and girls have been sexually exploited in return for food in northern Kenya, where gender-based violence is on the rise, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said on Wednesday.
“The IRC’s work with women and girls in northern Kenya has served as a critical lifeline for those who have experienced sexual gender-based violence and others forced to engage in sex work to survive,” Conor Philips, Kenya Country Director at the IRC, was quoted as saying by Efe news.
Food and water in Kenya are in short supply due to drought, leaving the African country on the brink of famine.
The IRC explained that the food crisis has led to an increase in early and forced marriages, and involvement in “transactional sex”.
Additionally, 12-year-old girls, who moved from rural to urban areas for prostitution, receive, according to the IRC, 50 shillings ($0.50) in exchange for sex.
Many of these girls told the NGO that their family members were relying on them for food.
“The current drought has led to a scarcity of food and an increase in women and girls who need support — now more than ever,” Philips added.
At least 2.6 million Kenyans suffer from food insecurity caused by drought, which has led to losing livestock, malnutrition, infectious diseases and a fivefold increase in food prices.
The IRC denounced the lack of funding for its programmes aimed to support this vulnerable population. In 2016, donors cut funding for programmes dealing with gender-based violence, psychosocial support, reproductive health, and mentorship to adolescent girls, among others.
“Donors should reinstate funding now, supporting girls to get out of commercial sex work and have better and safer opportunities to feed themselves and their families,” he said.
The IRC, which was founded in 1933 to help victims of Nazism in Germany, operates in 42 countries to help people affected by war, civil conflict or oppression.