UNICEF Radio youth reporter interviews 16-year-old Hassan Abdi Elmi about life in a Somali refugee camp

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NEW YORK, USA, 18 December 2009 - This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In honour of the anniversary, UNICEF Radio youth reporter Mostafa Mohamed Abdurrahman spoke with Hassan Abdi Elmi, 16, about his life in a refugee camp in Bossaso - a coastal town northeast of Somalia.

The 16-year-old fled his home in Mogadishu one year ago.

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"There's violence going on all the time," he said of his hometown. "There are bullets all the time. You can't sleep at night. There is bombing and shelling going on."

Life as a refugee is hard for Hassan, but he does not want to return home to violence.

A difficult life

Although he is not currently able to attend school, Hassan said he aspires to be a businessman one day. He'd like to be able to help his parents.

To earn money, he washes cars. Ocassionally, he tells Mostafa, local children will steal his supplies, leaving him unable to work.

Hassan also explained to Mostafa how, even when he is working, he is often cheated by his customers, who have him clean their car, then claim they do not have any money to pay.

Aid services hampered

Somalia has a total population of about eight million people. About 1.55 million people have been displaced by conflict, or drought and other factors.

The vast majority of displaced persons live in temporary settlements on privately owned land, where they are subject to abuse from landowners. They are frequently charged rent and forced to live in dense quarters without basic services such as latrines.

The local municipal authority has no resources to provide clean water and waste management service to these camps, so sanitation standards remain very poor, adding to the possibility of preventable water-borne diseases.

A number of humanitarian agencies including UNICEF have been trying to provide basic services, but so far the demand has exceeded available resources.

Bossaso hosts 27 camps where 40,000 people have sought refuge from other parts of the country.