Government of Japan officials hand over school supplies to Somali students and teachers

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HARGEISA, SOMALIA, 16 December 2009 - Over 180,000 Somali children and 3,000 teachers across the country received textbooks and other learning and teaching materials thanks to a generous contribution made by the Government of Japan.

A ceremony was held last week in Hargeisa, northwest Somalia, attended by representatives from the Government of Japan and local authorities, to officially hand over the new supplies to students and teachers.

Through a four million US dollar contribution made by Japan in early 2009, UNICEF and partners are providing Somali communities with essential services - in the areas of Health, Education, and Water and Sanitation - to help them counter the combined effects of soaring food prices, drought exacerbated by climate change, and deterioration of livelihoods.

"As people's coping capacities are eroded by prolonged conflict, drought, and high food prices, children's enrolment in schools is often compromised while families struggle to meet other basic needs." said Ms. Hannan Sulieman, Deputy Representative in UNICEF Somalia. "The funding from the Government of Japan is providing critical support to our efforts to ensure that children even in the most difficult circumstances receive quality education, a service identified by many Somali communities as their top priority."

UNICEF is currently the sole provider of textbooks and school materials for primary schools in Somalia and is providing training for teachers and community education committees, as well as incentives for teachers to help keep schools open. The school and classroom kits procured and distributed with funding from Japan include all basic supplies needed for one school year, such as blackboards, chalk, pens and pencils and exercise books, as well as registers, maps, and recreational supplies. With these supplies and textbooks, UNICEF is helping communities to reduce drop-out rates and increase new enrolment, especially among girls.

Addressing the students of Sheikh Nur School in Hargeisa during the handover ceremony, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese Embassy in Kenya, Mr. Seiji Okada said, "Although Japan was once a country of warlords, now it has become a developed country and a major exporter of products despite our lack of natural resources. This is only because Japan possesses the technology, due to our education and good schooling system. We are very glad to support your school to ensure that you receive good education, to prepare you to lead the future of your society."

UNICEF has also received a 3.5 million US dollar grant from Japan to reduce vulnerability of out-of-school adolescents to different forms of violence, abuse and exploitation by providing them with life skills based education and employment opportunities.

"Japan was the single largest country donor for UNICEF Somalia during 2009. The Government's increased commitment towards Somalia comes at a crucial time, when almost half of the country's total population or 3.64 million people are currently facing a humanitarian crisis, half of whom are children. More than ever, the international community's strengthened partnership is vital for the survival and wellbeing of Somali children" said Ms. Sulieman.

For information please contact:

Denise Shepherd-Johnson, UNICEF Somalia,
Tel + 254 722719867

Iman Morooka, UNICEF Somalia,
Tel +254 714606733