NAIROBI, 20 January (IRIN) - UN
agencies working in Somalia have called on Somali leaders and all parties
to the conflict to take immediate measures to ensure that children are
protected from violence.
In a statement issued on Friday, Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, expressed deep concern at the recent killings, kidnappings and attacks targeting children.
Gaylard emphasised that targeting children not only violated international legal instruments which protect child rights, but also went against Somali traditions which provide for the security of children and women in times of conflict.
Over the past few months there has been an increase in kidnappings and killings of children in Somalia, the statement noted. On 24 December 2002, several children were killed or injured in an attack on a school bus in the capital Mogadishu. Last week, a 12-year-old boy from Osman Bin Afan school in Mogadishu was also killed in an attack on a bus.
"We are urging Somali leaders to respect the international standards of child protection and to put an end to the conflict in Somalia in accordance with the Eldoret declaration signed in October 2002," Gaylard said.
The Somali groups meeting in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret agreed on 27 October to suspend all hostilities for the duration of the Somali national reconciliation conference, and signed a declaration to that effect.
The statement also quoted the UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Jasper Morch, as saying that more should be done to ensure child rights were respected.
"Apart from being the direct targets of fighting, Somali children, especially those living in Mogadishu, pay a disproportionate price by being exposed to violence and experiencing psychological distress and fear," he said.
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