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Geneva - Dozens of Ivorian refugee women and girls recently arrived in eastern Liberia say they have had to engage in sex to get adequate food, shelter, or money, Human Rights Watch said today. The Liberian government, the police, and United Nations agencies should take urgent measures to protect and assist vulnerable women and girls, including rapidly building protected shelter and helping them get sufficient and appropriate food, Human Rights Watch said.
They said that without adequate food assistance, they, or other refugees they knew well, had been compelled to engage in sex for money or basic necessities to help them and their children survive. Under Liberian law, sex with a girl under 18 is rape and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. I have five children to look after and the food here makes them ill.
I have to make money for other food. During sex with men in Toe Town, they ask me to do things I don't want to do and say they won't pay me if I don't agree. I need the money so I have no choice and I do what they say. Most have settled in about villages close to the border, where impoverished Liberian villagers straining under the influx have generously been their hosts, though some villagers have told refugees they have to leave because of a lack of food and housing.
On April 20 WFP said it had received a limited amount of rice to cover the needs of a few thousand refugees for a month and was expecting enough rice to feed just under , refugees for two months to arrive in the months to come. Human Rights Watch found refugee women and girls in desperate situations, engaging in sex to obtain money for food or shelter, in every type of location where refugees have settled in Grand Gedeh County: The women and girls said that men approached them - at night as they slept in villages in schools sheltering dozens or hundreds of refugees or under open skies, or by day in villages and towns - and offered to give them food, shelter, or money in exchange for sex.
Refugee women and girls in Grand Gedeh said they were increasingly unable to find food or shelter as villages strain under the numbers. Many of those who have found places with host families in towns told Human Rights Watch that the families sometimes threatened them with violence and forced them to work or have sex for shelter and food. Some said they were forced by their host families to do housework for long hours each day in exchange for a place on the floor at night and scraps of food.