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Somali Kids Paying High Price For Ongoing Violence

Somali children paying heavy price for ongoing violence, warns UNICEF

31 July 2008 - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has sounded the alarm about the impact of escalating violence on young people in Somalia, where just last week seven children died in battles between anti-government forces and Ethiopian troops based in the capital, Mogadishu.

"The current environment of conflict, displacement and insecurity in southern and central Somalia has a seriously negative impact on children's and young people's long-term psychosocial welfare and healthy development," said Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF's Representative in the Horn of African nation, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.

UNICEF has received reports of over 150 children killed or injured through indiscriminate shelling, bombings and crossfire during the past one year alone.

Another concern is the recruitment of children and their participation in the conflict, which Mr. Balslev-Olesen said has led to children becoming suspects and targets in the conflict.

Along with its partners, the agency is carrying out an advocacy campaign against child recruitment and is working with communities through child protection networks throughout southern and central Somalia to monitor and report on violations against children.

"However, the functioning of these networks is being seriously hampered by the deteriorating security situation in the region and the targeting of aid workers which are hindering the urgently needed humanitarian access," Mr. Balslev-Olesen noted.

UNICEF called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, protect the rights of children and find ways to increase aid access.

The agency recently announced it was scaling up its nutrition programme in the country after a survey found there had been an 11 per cent increase in malnutrition in the last six months.

Nearly 180,000 children in Somalia are acutely malnourished, with 25,000 severely malnourished, according to UNICEF, which added that the areas where internally displaced persons (IDPs) have taken refuge after fleeing the violence in Mogadishu are among the most at risk of malnutrition.

ENDS

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