Over the past two months, our Women In The World Column has aimed to inform our audience of current conditions of women with respect to issues such as woman during wartime, women’s rights to their bodies, women and basic human rights, women and marriage, women and maternal health, women and exploitation, and women in the workplace. We topped off these articles last week with a more positive piece about different initiatives that are being taken to improve the condition of women around the world in these different sectors.
Today, in an effort to understand the the difficulty of finding suitable arrangements for women who are suffering around the world, we will discuss refugee camps. As you learned in our article discussing females and the crisis in the Congo, women are often not safe in their own homes during times of war. They are displaced from their homes frequently due to the violence that comes to their area. In an effort to rescue women and children from the uncontrollable violence, many groups have funded refugee camps in safer areas of the Congo. However, this article will show that refugee camps, while they are an attempt to provide a sanctuary for survivors and potential victims of violence, can actually be extremely unsafe.
Think about it this way: rebel armies attack these groups of people in an effort to display their control and power. When large groups of Congolese people are in a concentrated area, rebels have a smaller area to destroy. Criminals are able to rob the refugee camps and then simply burn the remains.
The reason that the people in refugee camps are still vulnerable is because these camps are not completely safe as it is. They are often unsanitary and overpopulated, contributing to diseases. When these refugee camps under attack by rebel forces, there are not many resources to allow the victims to fight back. For example, it is not uncommon that you would find a refugee camp that does not have lights or electricity. Without these essential resources in an already dangerous area, women and children are again vulnerable to the uncontrollable violence of the rebels.
The idea of refugee camps is incredible: These settlements provide a temporary home and necessary human needs for people who have suffered through similar crises. Rather than fleeing into the forest with no plan, people are able to stay in these camps until it is safe to return to their homes. However, the camps need to be designed in such a way that is safe and sustainable. For example, if a mother has to leave the camp and enter dangerous territory in order to get all of the necessary supplies for dinner, she is still susceptible to rape and robbery. If refugee camps had all of the necessary supplies to sustain a family, people would not have to leave the camp grounds until it is safe. Locks and electricity would serve as defense supplies. Rebel groups seek to display ruthless violence against anybody not of their kind, regardless of whether they are in a refugee camp or not.
Click here to watch a tour of a home in a refugee camp.