UNICEF calls for protection of Somalia’s children, warns of unexploded ordnance
UNICEF remains distressed at the impact that violence is having on children in Mogadishu and calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety of civilians, especially children. At least 20 children have died in the past month as a result of ongoing conflict within the Somali capital, while many others are among the hundreds of thousands to have fled the city in recent months. The majority of the displaced are children, women and the elderly.
Children have been a direct casualty of the country’s halting steps toward peace. A national reconciliation conference that began 15 July has been marred by attacks, with mortars that missed the venue killing five children playing nearby on 19 July. Violence spread to the Bakara market, shutting many businesses and impacting the livelihood of hundreds of families.
“The indiscriminate killing of children makes a mockery of any movement toward reconciliation,” UNICEF Representative Christian Balslev-Olesen said. “For Somalia to move forward, it must ensure that its most vulnerable do not come under attack. Many children in the country today cannot simply play outdoors or walk to a mosque without the persistent threat of being killed.”
Late last month, five children were killed while en route to a mosque when one child innocently touched an unexploded ordnance, underscoring the lingering danger posed by explosive remnants of war, landmines and other such devices. With the fighting that began in late 2006, Somalia and especially Mogadishu have seen the prevalence of a new and especially deadly scourge - unexploded ordnance - across many parts of the city, including residential areas. Accidents, especially those involving children, are on the rise. UNICEF has been running mine-risk education spots on radio stations covering Mogadishu and surrounding areas for the past two months, and supporting training of community-based child protection advocates by Handicap International. Some of these will be deployed across Mogadishu. UNICEF also continues to offer technical support to UNDP as it establishes a Mine Action Centre in Southern Somalia.
“Landmines and other unexploded ordnance are a sad fact of life in post-conflict environments, and the children of Somalia have spent the past 16 years trying to rise from one conflict after another,” Balslev-Olesen said. “The past month has been a grim reminder that this threat is ever present today in Mogadishu, and requires at the minimum an extended public information campaign to inform families of the dangers posed by ordinary-looking devices.”
UNICEF has received reports of school raids by Transitional Federal Government forces seeking supporters of the ousted Islamist group and international terrorists, resulting in the arrest of three teachers and 20 students.
The ongoing insecurity is also affecting the ability of organizations like UNICEF from carrying out its humanitarian work. Water trucking, chlorination and hygiene awareness programmes are ongoing in an effort to avoid water-borne diseases, but they depend greatly on the security situation.
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