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4m Somalia children hit by war and climate change, experts say

Saturday May 11, 2024

Internally displaced children stand outside at a makeshift a camp outside the Somalia's capital Mogadishu on June 12, 2009. PHOTO | REUTERS

As Somali forces navigate a delicate transition to assume the country’s security responsibilities from African Union peacekeepers who have secured civilians and personnel of international agencies for the past 17 years, experts say that four million children in Somalia have been affected by conflict and climate change.

Isha Dyfan, UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, announced this Thursday, at meetings with government officials, UN representatives, children rights activists and other humanitarian agencies operating in Somalia.

“I noted slow progress in the implementation of the National Action Plan on children, and I wish to call upon the Federal Government to take measures to promote and protect women and children’s rights,” she said.

Ms Dyfan said children represent 60-70 percent of the internally displaced persons and other vulnerable populations, all being victims of forced eviction and its impact, and children are further at risk of mines and hazardous materials in the liberated areas.

After decades of isolation, Somalia has recently started to enjoy goodwill from the international community. Last December, the country qualified for debt cancellation under the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative, making it eligible for up to $4.5 billion of debt relief.

The UN expert urged Somalia to use debt forgiveness and channel the funds – and money from other lenders were the government is sourcing funding for the country’s rebuilding – into sectors that will produce a healthy, educated population.

This push ties in with the proposals of the African Union, that 15 percent of Somalia’s new debt should be spent on education and healthcare.

In December 2023, the Somali security conference held at the UN headquarters in New York delineated the government’s strategic priorities and roadmap for the security sector over the next six years, including the requirement for international support.

UN officials also describe the level of sexual and gender-based violence as an “epidemic,” with allegations of rape and gang rape, homicide and the lack of accountability for perpetrators.

Despite this desire, Somalia still faces security challenges, with its civilians, especially women and children, continuing to bear the brunt of deadly attacks carried out by Al Shabaab.

The Federal Government of Somalia has also started reforms by launching several initiatives to protect the rights of children during armed conflict.

These include measures to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, implementing age verification processes and biometric registration within the Somali National armed forces to ensure compliance and end the tag of child soldiers in its army.

UN officials describe the level of sexual and gender-based violence as an “epidemic problem,” with allegations of rape and gang rape, homicide and the lack of accountability for perpetrators.

In her discussions with Somali officials, Ms Dyfan tasked the government to strengthen capacity for investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators, so that survivors can report the crimes without fear.

With little or no protection, rape victims and survivors live in fear of reprisals and stigma with no hope of access to justice and effective remedies.


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