NAIROBI, KENYA, 15 June 2010 – Children in Somalia need sustained and significant local and international financial and material support to ensure they lead a better life, UNICEF Representative in Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton, said on the occasion of the Day of the African Child marked tomorrow June 16 2010 with the theme: Planning and budgeting for children - Our collective responsibility.
Somalia has for the last 20 years endured conflict and difficult conditions for children and women. No child today in the central and southern parts of the country has lived in or known a peaceful environment. Somalia needs substantial funding and material resources to ensure services such as health, nutrition, education, water sanitation and hygiene and other life-saving interventions are delivered to children as part of recovery, reconstruction and development initiatives.
“Somali communities, families, parents, local administrations, non-governmental organizations, donors and international organizations should have a collective responsibility to put the best interests of the child first,” says Ms Chorlton. “This sense of responsibility should be engrained in various planning and budgeting initiatives for the welfare of Somali children.”
A major impediment to provision of services to children and women in Somalia is that there is too little or limited revenue that can be used to provide services that children require for better livelihoods. For example, a major challenge to planning and budgeting is in the health sector where Somalia needs to spend $35 per person per year to finance a public health system that can deliver basic services primarily targeting children and women.
Somalia is among those least able to do so especially in the Central-South of the country where the Transitional Federal Government provides no public funding for health care. Even where some semblance of local administration exists in Northwest Somalia (‘Somaliland’) and Northeast Somalia (‘Puntland’), the administrations are only able to provide $0.5 per person. The Abuja Declaration commits African governments to contribute 15 per cent of their budgets for health. The Somaliland and Puntland contributions equate to roughly 2 – 3 per cent of their public expnditure.
“Though there is significant private, community and charitable contribution to health services in the country, public health authorities need to take the lead in making realistic commitments to clearly articulated public priorities within their current financial capabilities so as to attract further funding from donors,” says Austen Davis, Chief of Accelerated Child Survival and Development, UNICEF Somalia. “It is also vital that the international community finances projects across multiple years feeding into strategically coherent (and again realistic plans of action) as opposed to disparate short term projects. Donors urgently need to harmonise and pool their financing with other counterparts to ensure longer-lasting, more coherent and strategic engagement.”
Meanwhile, existing models of successful public-private sector collaboration in Somalia, which already benefit children, could be enhanced with additional public money. In a country where scarce water resources and uneven distribution exacerbate poverty and inequalities, the Public-Private Partnership approach - supported by UNICEF and its donors - has made low-cost water, sanitation and hygiene services available in urban settings. These are administered by representative and transparent public-private management mechanisms. Over the last two years these partnerships have succeeded in reaching over 234,000 Somalis with safe water: evidence of how strategic investments can make a real difference. As part of emergency interventions In Central-South Somalia, UNICEF reached over 1,130,000 people (an estimated 226,000 children under-five) affected by conflict, displacement and/or drought with safe water during 2009 through support to the operation and maintenance and chlorination of water systems and sources.
In the education sector, there is a need to increase the numbers of schools to increase the number of children in school - but these schools need supplies and teachers. Needs and resources must be matched - planning to ensure resources are used well is critical. In addition a planned sector can drive towards certain socially desirable outcomes like ensuring enhanced female student enrollment or meeting interim educational needs of internally displaced persons' children.
The Day of the African Child is marked on 16 June annually. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) – the precursor to the African Union - in 1990 declared 16 June 1991 as the first Day of the African Child. It was set aside as an annual remembrance to mark the massacre of South African school children by armed police during a peaceful demonstration in the Soweto neighbourhood of Johannesburg in 1976. It is marked annually to rededicate commitment to improve the lives of children in Africa.
About UNICEF UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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 more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org