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.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information contact:
• Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Representative to Somalia, UNICEF Somalia Support Center, E-mail: email@example.com Direct line +254-20-623952; ++254-20-350420, Telefax +254-20-623965, Mobile phone +254-733-629933; +254-722-514569
• Denise Shepherd-Johnson, Communication Officer, UNICEF Somalia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +254-20-623958/ Mob: +254-721-719867, Fax: +254-20-623965/520640.
• El Khidir Daloum, Save the Children UK Country Director, Somalia. Email: email@example.com Tel: +254-20-273 7201/ Mob: +254-733-333417, Fax:+254-20-273 7468
• Kathryn Rawe, Media Officer (Emergencies), Save the Children UK, London Media Unit. Email K.Rawe@savethechildren.org.uk Tel +44 (0)20 7012 6844