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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 11:35 GMT
Africa war zones' 'rape epidemic'
A rape victim in DR Congo (Copyright: Amnesty International)
Unicef says social turmoil leads to an epidemic of sexual abuse
Sexual violence is spreading in African conflict zones like an epidemic, the United Nations has warned.

The UN's children's fund, Unicef, says rape is no longer just perpetrated by combatants but also by civilians.

The organisation said rape was most common in countries affected by wars and natural disasters.

"When societies collapse there seems to be a licence to rape. This is a major concern to us," Unicef Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson said.

Sexual violence appeared to accompany a significant uprooting of society when some of the social norms crumble, she said.

Things happen that are unheard of in other African communities
Unicef's Hilde Frafjord Johnson

Ms Johnson said that in Kenya reported cases of sexual violence had doubled within days of the recent post-election conflict erupting.

"Things happen that are unheard of in other African communities suddenly happen in these situations, and that is why we call it epidemic proportions, because it takes a life of its own," she said.

She added that rape was also prevalent in trouble spots in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where victims range from a few months old to octogenarians.

The warning comes as Unicef launches an appeal for $856m to help women and children who are victims of conflicts and other emergencies across the continent.

Sudan tops the list of countries in need of aid with Unicef calling for $150m.

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29 Jun 07 |  Africa

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