Addis Ababa - *Fatima, 25, from the Southern region in Ethiopia left the country with the help of a smuggler to join her sister in Lebanon, where she thought she would make enough money to care for her four children. 

“I left my children with my family and departed for Sudan,” she says.

She had to walk long miles in extreme temperatures for three weeks without food and water and the smugglers often beat them along the journey.  

On arriving in Sudan, she got a job as a cleaner. But she was never paid any wages. 

“The smugglers would collect the money in exchange for food and shelter. After nine months in Sudan, they got me a visa for Lebanon,” says Fatima. 

When Fatima arrived in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, the smugglers got her a job as a domestic servant.  Her passport was taken away by her employer. She was later left alone with her male employer in an isolated house on the outskirts of Beirut after his wife got pregnant.  

Fatima* with her baby. Fatma went to Lebanon where she worked as a domestic servant. She was raped repeatedly and she became pregnant. ©IOM 2022/ Alexander Bee

Fatima says she was raped repeatedly by her employer which resulted in pregnancy.  

Not believing her at first, her employer who is also the perpetrator took her to the hospital for a pregnancy test. When he confirmed her pregnancy, he decided to get rid of her.

“He threw me away where the Ethiopian community lived in Lebanon. I called his wife to explain, but she did not believe me,” she says.  

Fatima later approached the Ethiopian embassy in Lebanon, where she was placed in a transit centre and later assisted to return to Ethiopia.

Given her vulnerability, Fatima was housed at a shelter where she safely delivered her baby. Fatima is lost. She is afraid to return home with a child, the result of rape, which would be unacceptable to her parents. Despite returning to her country, Fatima remains disconnected from her family including her children.

Despite returning to her country, Fatima remains disconnected from her family including her children ©IOM 2022/ Alexander Bee

Through the Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen: 2021–2024 framework, IOM, Governments and partners assist migrants like Fatima through provision of humanitarian assistance and specialized protection interventions in transit, destination and when they return to their countries of origin. Such services include but are not limited to voluntary return and reintegration, provision of safe shelter, medical assistance, mental health and psychosocial support, legal aid, provision of basic needs and material assistance. Several donors, including the US Government, European Union, French Government and Norway currently fund the plan. 

*Names have been changed. 

This story was written by Kenneth Odiwuor, Communications and Public Information Officer at IOM Regional Office for East and Horn of Africa, Email: 

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