Reuters (02.10.10) - Thursday, February 18, 2010
Many Somali refugees have fled clan warfare and famine back
home and are struggling to survive in Yemen, according to the
UN. There are 171,000 registered refugees in the country,
mostly Somalis, an increase from 140,300 the previous year,
according to the UN's refugee agency. Many more Somali
refugees are unregistered, including sex workers.
Compared with the rest of Yemen, the southern city of Aden is
more freewheeling. Alcohol is served at a few restaurants and
beach clubs, and prostitutes work in cheap hotels and clubs in
Aden's seaside Tawahi district.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helps Somalis
who have made it to Yemen, but many interviewed in Aden's
Basateen slum district said they struggle financially.
"My life is rubbish, but what can I do?" said a mid-30s
refugee and mother of six. She lives on UN donations and
recently began sex work so she can send money to the relatives
taking care of her children. "I have to work and make some
Another woman forced to turn to sex work paid smugglers to
take her across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. "I have to take
care of my son," she said. "I have to buy him milk."
"The main reason for prostitution is poverty, the unemployment
of refugees," said Alawiya Omar, who works in Basateen for the
Italian aid organization Intersource. With UNHCR, Intersource
assists women survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault
and provides education about STDs and HIV.
"Awareness of the dangers of getting infections is not high,"
said Halima, a Somali health care provider who teaches sex
workers how to avoid infections. "There are courses for the
women, but many don't bother to show up even if they get some
money or free food on that day."