The Horrible Reports Coming Out of Somalia

Somali refugees lack food to break the Ramadan fast and are vulnerable to rape

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The news out of drought-stricken Somalia keeps getting grimmer. In the past 24 hours alone, the U.N.'s humanitarian aid chief announced that famine may be spreading in the country, torrential rains battered Mogadishu (the rain is good for the drought, bad for makeshift refugee camps), and the Islamic militant group Al Shabaab launched a Ramadan offensive against Somali and African Union troops that included heavy fighting in the capital and a deadly suicide bomb attempt. In two particularly distressing reports recently, the Associated Press highlighted a couple other concerns: rape and the Ramadan fast.

In an an article on Sunday, the AP noted how Somali women in Kenyan refugee camps are at risk of getting raped by "armed men who prowl the bush at night," especially when these women leave their families to go to the bathroom or gather firewood. The news outlet notes that the perpetrators tend to be "deserters from Somali forces across the border" or "Kenyan bandits who rob and gang-rape the stream of refugees fleeing the famine in Somalia." In a separate piece today, the AP adds that while Muslims around the world traditionally have elaborate dinners at sunset to break their fasts on Ramadan--which began today--many Somalis this year don't have the food for such feasts but are fasting anyway. "Even though Islam allows the ailing to eat," the report notes, "for many Somalis it's a matter of faith to participate in Ramadan's fast." But others are foregoing the ritual. "I cannot fast because I cannot get food to break it and eat before the morning," one man at a camp for displaced people in Mogadishu explains.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.