Saturday, January 13, 2007

End the suffering of Somali children

Above Somali girl carrying a baby

NAIROBI, 12 January 2007 - Peace and stability are urgently needed in Somalia to end the suffering of thousands of Somali children affected by the recent conflict, UNICEF and Save the Children UK said today.

Children have been victims of conflict and, according to eye-witness accounts, have featured prominently in recent fighting as active combatants. UNICEF and Save the Children demand that all children associated with armed forces or groups must be immediately released from their ranks, or from detention centres where they might currently be held. Both agencies call upon the TFG and Somali Institutions to take the necessary steps to ensure these children are adequately cared for, and safely reunited with their families without discrimination.

UNICEF and Save the Children say they are very disturbed by reports that Somali children and women are among the casualties of aerial bombardment and accounts that camps for internally displaced people are coming under grenade attack. The agencies are concerned that with the closure of Kenya’s borders, the threats to fleeing Somalis have increased. While noting that children are most vulnerable of all, they say they have received information that some have been randomly shot in the street, while others risk being recruited to fight by re-emerging warlords. The agencies say this is unacceptable under any rules of engagement.

Whilst the prospect of a centralized government brings opportunities, there are huge challenges facing the country that stand in way of stability and a safe future for children. The agencies’ concern is now compounded by the fact that the conflict situation is restricting access for humanitarian workers to reach vulnerable populations, deliver supplies and monitor the extent of child rights violations. UNICEF Somalia Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen stated “Any continuation of the conflict within Somalia would do much to compromise the modest gains that have been achieved by the Somalis with the support of the International Community over the past fifteen years.”

El Khidir Daloum, Save the Children’s Country Director said “Children in Somalia, and in particular the South, are suffering the consequences of a triple humanitarian crisis: drought, flooding and now conflict. Unless the situation stabilizes rapidly, no one can guarantee the safety of Somali children. More children will be separated from their families, orphaned and vulnerable to abuse and neglect.”

Education is key to the rehabilitation of Somali children. However, with over 65,000 - 70,000 people displaced by current fighting and continuing insecurity, school enrolment has been severely affected.
Source: UNICEF

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