Grave Child Rights violations in Somalia

Statement by the Group of Friends of Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC) of Somalia

02 November 2021
UNICEF Somalia/2020/Coursin

The Group of Friends of Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC) of Somalia express deep concern that data from the Secretary General’s annual reports on CAAC shows that Somalia is now the most dangerous conflict on the planet for children. The Group of Friends of CAAC insists that child rights must be brought to the forefront of international efforts to achieve lasting peace in Somalia. Relative to other countries included in the Secretary General’s annual report, Somalia’s total number of verified violations (23,374) exceed all other countries over the past 5-year period (2016-20). Aggregated data of all parties to the conflict shows that Somalia has the highest number of abducted children (6,553), highest number of child survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence (1,606) and second highest number of child recruitment and use cases (9,533). Somalia has the 5th highest number of children who have been killed or maimed in conflict (4,883). Al Shabaab has committed the majority of these atrocities.

Al Shabaab - largest recruiter of children worldwide - Trends in child recruitment and use and child abduction are particularly concerning to the Group of Friends. Data shows that Al Shabaab has recruited 6,843 children since 2016 and annual trends indicate a 300% increase in child recruitment and use over the past 5 years. This is strong evidence that the recruitment of children is now Al Shabaab policy.   

Testimony collected from community leaders, parents and children describe how conscription is difficult to avoid for children living in Al Shabaab controlled areas. Due to insecurity, which limits access for humanitarian actors, there are few educational services or alternative livelihoods available for adolescent children. The only option for parents wishing to avoid recruitment of their children is to move them out of Al Shabaab controlled areas. These displaced children are now separated from their families, living in towns and cities across Somalia deprived of parental care, living in insecurity and poverty while parents at home live in fear of Al Shabaab retaliation.

Faced with a sustained surge in grave child rights violations, we, the CAAC Group of Friends of Somalia, call upon:

  1. All actors to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and bring an end to grave rights violations against children, particularly rape, killing and maiming, recruitment, use and abduction of children.  We call upon any actors with influence upon the group to appeal for concrete actions to end grave child rights violations.
  2. All parties to the conflict to implement, enforce and strengthen existing action plans and command orders to end grave child rights violations in Somalia.
  3. The Somali government and its partners working on political, humanitarian, counter-terrorism, security and stabilisation programmes to acknowledge the epidemic of grave child rights violations and develop immediate and effective mitigation strategies to prevent and respond to grave child rights violations.
  4. All actors should prioritise resources and programmes aimed at protecting the lives and well-being of children; including the hundreds of thousands of children living in Al Shabaab controlled areas.

We, the undersigned, endorse and support this statement as the CAAC Group of Friends of Somalia.


Media contacts

Victor Chinyama
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Somalia
Tel: +252613375885


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

UNICEF has been working in Somalia since 1972 when its first office opened in Mogadishu. Today UNICEF has over 300 staff working in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Dollow, Garowe, Hargeisa and also Nairobi, Kenya. Together with 200 international and national NGOs and community-based organizations, UNICEF delivers services in Health, Nutrition, WASH, Education and Child Protection, and responds to emergencies and supports peace-building and development.

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