UNICEF Somalia’s work in child protection has focused on four main projects, namely undertaking studies in child protection and small arms, supporting the rehabilitation of former child soldiers, and strengthening the country’s juvenile justice system.
Child protection study
In 2003 UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance and other partners completed a child protection study throughout Somalia to assess the situation of marginalized and vulnerable children.
The data collected provides a clearer understanding of the protection problems faced by children in Somalia. It focuses on children:
The study identified best practices in protecting children in Somalia, but also highlighted gaps in the capacity and responsibility of duty-bearers -- be they community leaders, authorities, families or professionals -- in ensuring this protection.
Small arms study
UNICEF worked with the Centre for Research and Development to collect data and assess the impact of small arms and light weapons prevalence on children in Mogadishu, Merca and Kismayo in Central and Southern Somalia.
This is the first time that children have participated in such a project and have been given the opportunity to discuss their experiences and views. Children who have been involved in hostilities, internally displaced children and children belonging to minorities testified about the effect of the presence of small arms, the internal Somali conflict (including the lack of educational opportunities), and the exposure to daily violence.
Rehabilitating child soldiers
In Mogadishu, UNICEF is supporting a local non-governmental organization (NGO), the Elman Child Soldier Rehabilitation Project, to implement a programme for reintegrating former child soldiers through vocational training, building conflict resolution skills, and trauma counseling.
The first phase of the project reached 120 former combatants who had been active with local militia. Participants were given employment opportunities because of the skills they had gained and underwent intensive training in peaceful conflict resolution.
UNICEF and its partners are now beginning a second phase of the project that will incorporate the experiences from the first phase and provide reintegration and rehabilitation opportunities for an additional 420 former child soldiers.
Improving and strengthening the formal and non-formal juvenile justice system in conformity with international standards for child protection has been identified as a priority by the local authorities working toward legal reform and juvenile justice in Somaliland, as well as partner organizations working on child rights and protection. These interested groups include UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Save the Children-US.
Numerous children are presently being detained in prisons alongside adults and are sometimes the victims of violence and abuse. The local authorities have acknowledged these problems and have initiated several actions in response.
A Juvenile Justice Forum has been created to address broader issues relating to juvenile justice, including prevention, rehabilitation and restorative justice issues. Support is being provided to these initiatives for the development of a child-friendly juvenile justice and law enforcement system.