NAIROBI - Kenyan authorities and aid agencies say rape and sexual abuse cases against girls have increased since the start of pandemic restrictions, and they say in most cases relatives are the offenders.
Some safe shelters in Nairobi are overwhelmed by girls who need an escape from people meant to care for them.
Kenyan children have extra time off these days since schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. That is making them more vulnerable to sexual predators.
Thirty-three-year-old Judith Andiso said a 20-year-old man targeted her teenage daughter at home and got her pregnant.
“I started interrogating my daughter," Andiso said. "She started to explain how the man will come in the house while I am away, give her 10-20 shillings, and take her to another dark building near our place.”
Some of the abused children end up in safe houses in central Nairobi.
Florence Keya runs one of them. Her center hosts 26 girls, 17 of them came here between March and July.
Keya said there are many more girls who need a safe home.
“We can only take the number we can manage," Keya said. "We are so sad because sometimes we deny cases at the gate. So, we say we can’t take them in because we are full.”
Kenya’s Ministry of Health says it has received reports of at least 5,000 sexual violence cases across the country, 65% of them involve girls younger than 18, many of whom live in poverty. Officials say in many cases the perpetrators are close to the victims and do not believe the abuse is a crime.
Fanis Lisiagali is the head of Healthcare Assistance Kenya, an organization that works closely with the ministry of gender on issues of women and girls.
“Girls are being lured very easily by these perpetrators just because they know this family cannot afford to provide," Lisiagali said. "So, they give them handouts and they end up having sex with these girls. They don’t know this is a punishable thing or punishable crime, but now they accept just because their parents cannot afford to provide certain items.”
Andiso, the mother of five, rarely leaves her house these days worried her children will be victim to more abuse.