MOGADISHU - Driven from their homes by a killer combination of conflict, drought and hunger, rape is adding to the endless suffering of Somali refugees.
"Three armed men in government uniform came into the camp, Kadija Mohamed, 36, told AlertNet in Dinsoor camp on Thursday, January 26.
The strongest one shone a powerful torch in my eyes, he strangled me and then raped me in front of my crying kids," she said.
The Somali widow said she waited for sunrise before making her way to a nearby clinic only to be told there were no doctors.
"Later the camp leaders brought me some painkillers. Now I'm OK but I do not know what diseases I caught from the rape.
I have nowhere to go for a check-up," Mohamed said.
"We live in these makeshift shelters. We have no aid agency or government to protect us at night. We are at God's mercy."
Nurto Isak, another displaced Somali, said rape was common in her camp.
"They rape even mothers at gunpoint at night -- and we are threatened to death should we disclose it," she said.
"The makeshift shelters have no lockable doors, so these men just come in at night and lie on you."
In its January 18 report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said sexual violence against women and girls was continuing in Somalia.
It also said security in the internally displaced people (IDP) settlements was insufficient and at risk of deteriorating.
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled their homes over a combination of armed conflict and drought in the Horn of Africa nation.
Last year, the United Nations declared famine in parts of the conflict-ravaged Somalia.
Six months after the declaration, the Horn of Africa country remains in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, with 4 million people in need of aid, according to UN figures.
Refugees also complain that aid offered by international agencies often goes to warlords.
"Half of the rations intended for our camp is given to the warlord whose militia are said to be guarding us," Isak told AlertNet.
Some of the IDP camps -- little more than a clutch of flimsy shelters made of sticks and cloth -- are directly and indirectly run by government forces or warlords linked to the government, residents say.
Shukri Aden, a resident at another camp, said she had witnessed traders buying food supplies directly from a number of local staff working for NGOs and aid agencies responsible for distributing food in her camp.
"Traders park their cars and lorries beside the camp when it is food distribution day," the mother of six said.
Once a month residents of the camps are handed a card that allows them to collect 25 kg of rice, 25 kg of wheat flour, 10 kg of sugar and 5 liters of cooking oil, Aden said.
But often they are pressured into handing their rations to a local aid worker who pays them around $5 each -- hardly enough to buy food for a day.
The aid worker then sells the food at a marked-up price to a trader, earning thousands of dollars in profits, she said.
"They give us cards to take food but we rarely receive the ration," said Aden, who has taken to begging and washing clothes to scrape together a few more shillings to feed her family.
Macalim Ibrahim, Mohamed's brother, reserved his biggest criticism for government officials and local aid workers.
"These local aid workers are building houses with the sale of food intended for the poor displaced people like us," he told AlertNet.
"We are deprived and yet have no government or aid agencies to ask for help."
He also questioned the effectiveness of some of the aid that has been given.
"Many NGOs come, take our photos, and never come back. For example, one aid agency came and erected this school building made of iron sheets," Ibrahim said.
"We brought our kids to the school but it did not work more than 7 days. The guys took footage of the kids at school and never came back. And the teachers disappeared."Other aid agencies came and built these latrines. That is good but a hungry man never goes to the toilet. We need food and water to survive."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net