Children at grave risk as violations spike.
Interview with outgoing DHC.
The Gu rainy season ends, but needs remain high.
Humanitarians step up vaccination campaigns.
Lack of funding hampers aid operation.
# of people in need 5.4m
# of people in humanitarian emergency and crisis (IPC Phases 3 &4) 2.m
# of people Emergency (IPC Phase 4) 0.5m
# of children projected to be malnourished 1.2m
# of people displaced internally by drought since November 2016 1.6m
# of people in protracted internal displacement 1.1m
$1.5 BILLION requested in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan
$525 MILLION Total humanitarian funding received towards the 2018 HRP (Source : http://fts.unocha.org, 29 June, 2018)
Children at grave risk as violations spike
Twelve-year-old Abdi* remembers with sadness the day he was forced to leave his home in the Jilib district of Jubaland State in January this year. He had been detained by Al-Shabaab while on his way to madrasa (school), but managed to escape. Abdi was forced to flee to Kismayo, the state capital some 76 kilometers away, leaving behind the only place he had ever called home. He didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to his friends and five siblings. “I miss them every day,” he says.
His mother had repeatedly told him that she could not afford to lose another child, and she encouraged him to escape. The family’s two older boys, then aged 14 and 15, were among boys who had been recruited by Al-Shabaab a year earlier. They have not been heard from, nor seen, since.
With just a few belongings, Abdi and some other boys from his village arrived in Kismayo, joining a growing number of unaccompanied children who have been driven out of their homes as Al-Shabaab steps up its recruitment in communities across southern and central areas of Somalia. Abdi’s story tallies with those of hundreds of other children who roam the streets of Kismayo, and other urban areas, after being forced to flee their homes. However, he has luckily been reunited with his mother in Kismayo following family reunification efforts by a local humanitarian partner. The mother left behind her other children to escape pressure to disclose the whereabouts of her son. The father died two years ago. Abdi and his mother are now living in one of the settlements designated for internally displaced people, on the outskirts of the town.
The increasing cases of separation of children from their homes is a harsh reality for parents facing pressure from armed forces and groups to surrender their kin. While in some instances families relocate in unison, many are often sent away from unsafe areas to prevent them falling into the hands of Al Shabaab. The cases of children being forced to flee recruitment are rampant in Galmudug and South West states, according to the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms.
Although the extent of the practice is difficult to quantify, anecdotal evidence suggests that thousands of children are at risk, according to the child protection sub-Cluster. A notable trend has been the intimidation of vulnerable communities in southern and central Somalia to ‘volunteer’ their children for recruitment. However, nothing is voluntary, as communities face repercussions, including arrests and fines, for refusing to comply. Last September, AlShabaab ordered elders in the Diinsoor district of South West State to hand over 300 children. The elders reportedly advised parents to instead send their children to government-controlled areas. The elders were subsequently arrested, forcing the community to surrender some children in exchange for their release. By the end of September 2017, 158 children had been sent to safety in the state. While many of the unaccompanied children are taken in by relatives, a majority are at risk of other protection violations, including abuse and exploitative labour, if they are not assisted on arrival.
Grave violations of children’s rights by armed forces and groups are widespread in Somalia.
In the first quarter of 2018, the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms verified numerous incidents of the grave violations, including abductions, rape and other sexual violence acts, child recruitment, killing and maiming, denial of humanitarian access for children and attacks on schools or hospitals. Some 990 violations of children (817 boys and 173 girls were recorded. This is an increase from 794 children (648 boys and 146 girls) verified in the same period of 2017. Additionally, some 448 children (435 boys, 13 girls) were reportedly recruited by armed forces and groups, in the same period. This was an increase compared to the 397 children (389 boys and 8 girls) recruited in the same period of 2017. They vary in age from seven to 17 years.
Scaling up the protection response
Humanitarian partners are scaling up assistance to the children affected by armed conflicts.
Between January and June, the Child Protection sub-Cluster reached 4,367 separated and unaccompanied children (2,497 boys, 1870 girls). Services provided include family tracing and reunification, material assistance, recreational and psychosocial support, and interim care by foster families for those who are unaccompanied. In the same period, 415 children (89 girls and 326 boys) were enrolled in UNICEF-supported reintegration centres in Banadir region, Hirshabelle, South West, and Puntland states, following their release or rescue from armed forces and groups. Most children risk being separated from their families for longer periods, as reunification is only possible if their areas of origin enjoy relative security.
Challenges hindering an effective response include weak legislation and limited social services. Authorities continue to work with the international community to end violations against children and guarantee child rights in conflict situations. However, a lot more needs to be done to ensure protection of vulnerable children from forced recruitment. International partners are providing technical support to the Federal Government of Somalia, to ensure a national reintegration strategy is in place to prevent child recruitment, and to facilitate the release and reintegration of those still in the hands of armed forces and militant groups.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.