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February 28, 2017

Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence​

When refugees are forced to flee the security of their homes and communities, they are often at grave risk of sexual violence. Because society offers men more power, privilege and opportunity, women and girls are especially vulnerable.

Many women are raped by armed groups that threaten to kidnap their victims’ children if their mothers don’t give in. Others are forced to exchange sex for food. Girls are married off when parents can no longer afford to care for their daughters.

An Ethiopian refugee and sexual violence survivor shares her story.

Preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is at the heart of the UN Refugee Agency’s mission to protect people forced to flee. UNHCR provides safe and secure shelter, medical care, emotional support, legal recourse, education and livelihood training.

How USA for UNHCR Donors Help:

Refugee artisans working with french designers



USA for UNHCR donor-supported trade cooperatives provide SGBV survivors opportunities to earn income and support their families. In Burkina Faso for instance, Malian refugees make traditional products sold through international fair trade channels. Creating a livelihood empowers these women and helps them gain independence.

A Somali refugee in Kobe Refugee Camp, Ethiopia travels via cart past a solar powered street light.


At Kobe refugee camp in Ethiopia, additional lighting can prevent SGBV by making it safer for the Somalis who live there to access washrooms and other facilities at night. Solar powered street lights are a part of a campaign to improve renewable energy solutions, which will also include energy technologies like indoor solar lanterns and fuel efficient cooking stoves.


Women attend a training session on Gender Based Violence in South Sudan.

In many cultures, SGBV isn’t considered a crime and even discussing it is taboo. As a result, sexual assaults are underreported and victims are often ostracized by their communities. At camp in Pariang, South Sudan, women forced to flee from their homes participate in a training program that raises awareness about — and ultimately can prevent — child marriage, rape and other forms of SGBV.

The UN Refugee Agency will continue to empower survivors of SGBV to seek help, raise awareness and prevent assaults by making sure that refugees live in safety and security.

Here’s how you can help …

International Women’s Day on March 8th is when the world celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year, show your compassion for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by becoming a USA for UNHCR monthly donor. It’s the most convenient, effective and efficient way to make a lifesaving difference. Make your monthly gift today.