Tag Archives: Somalia

Children in Armed Conflict Abused and Exploited.

Hague Court Considers Nigeria Case

12 September 2013
Geneva — The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict has said millions of children caught in armed conflict are victims of grave violations and subject to sexual violence and recruitment as child soldiers. The findings were made in a report that Leila Zerrougui has submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

All people caught in situations of conflict suffer, but children suffer the most, said Zerrougui, who added that many are killed and maimed. and often forced to witness and commit atrocities. Children are also arrested, detained, tortured and ill-treated for their alleged association with parties to conflict, she said.

Zerrougui reviewed the condition of children caught in armed conflict between June 2013 and July 2013 in Syria, Chad, Yemen, the Philippines and other nations at war. Of all the countries under review, she said Somalia remains the one with the largest number of children associated with armed groups.

“The relapse into conflict in Central African Republic and Eastern DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] has affected the most vulnerable, and children previously separated from armed groups and forces have been re-recruited,” Zerrougui said.

“Reports on the situation in these countries describe a continuing and alarming trend of grave violations committed against children. Children also bore the brunt of the conflict [that] broke out in northern Mali, where armed groups have recruited and used hundreds of children.”

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Somalia: Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Effort

The global community came tantalizingly close earlier this year to ridding the world of polio. But then in May, the eradication effort took a powerful blow. The virus turned up again in the Horn of Africa, first in Somalia.

The Banadir region of Somalia, which includes a Mogadishu refugee camp, is thought to be the so-called “engine” of the Horn of Africa polio outbreak.

In June, three-year-old Mohamed Naasir became ill. His mother, Khadija Abdullahi Adam, said soon after one leg became permanently disabled.

“My son was fine, but he started having a high fever which lasted for almost four days,” she explained. “I gave him medicine, but there was no change. The following morning he said to me ‘Mom, I can’t stand up.'”

The virus has spread at a rapid pace, triggering massive vaccination efforts.

Earlier in 2013, polio was confined to three so-called “endemic countries” — Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan — where the virus has never been snuffed out. Combined there were fewer than 100 cases in those three countries.

Since the virus re-emerged in the Horn of Africa, there have been at least 160 polio cases in Somalia alone, and the virus has spread to Kenya and Ethiopia.

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Somalia: Building health systems from scratch.

MOGADISHU, 26 April 2013  – Lul Mohamed, director of the paediatric ward at Banadir Hospital in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, treated five children after two bomb attacks killed 30 people on 14 April. “And they were shooting last night. One died, a bullet in his liver,” she said of an eight-year-old boy.

Yet these are conditions of relative peace in Mogadishu. While the conflict is not over, insecurity has diminished since the withdrawal of insurgent group Al-Shabab in 2011. This relative security is allowing Mohamed to focus on preventative healthcare, a luxury she did not have two years ago.

In March 2013, she admitted 26 cases with measles, 19 with tuberculosis, 14 with tetanus and nine with meningitis. She is frustrated because all of these diseases are immunizable. Six of the children admitted that month died.

Mohamed hopes this year to immunize 1,000 children per month in the hospital’s tiny but brightly painted vaccination room. Two volunteers sit at a desk, another monitors those coming in and out. They say they became volunteers when donors pulled out and staff were let go. By 1pm that day, they had vaccinated 28 children.

“A huge improvement in a short time – if peace holds,” Mohamed said.

Vaccination

Coinciding with World Immunization Week, the Somali government announced on 24 April its intention to vaccinate all children under the age of one with a new five-in-one vaccine, known as a pentavalent vaccine, funded by the GAVI Alliance, with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) as implementing partners.

“Children in Somalia are dying of diseases that are prevented in the rest of the world,” said Maryam Qasim, the Minister of Development and Social Affairs, speaking at the vaccine’s launch. “Introducing this vaccine is a milestone in history.”

President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also presided over the launch, showing unprecedented support for improving child and maternal health in Somalia, two of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals. He also announced that his government would consider co-financing the vaccination programme, as other countries do, in the future.

Currently, fewer than half of children in Somalia have received the mandatory diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine, a rate that Anne Zeindl-Cronin, senior programme manager at the GAVI Alliance, describes as “incredibly low”. Only 7 percent of children in Puntland and 11 percent of children in Somaliland receive the required three doses by their first birthday, according to a joint UNICEF and government survey.

The pentavalent will protect immunized children against these three diseases, as well as heptatitis B and Haemophilius influenzae type b.

Health system strengthening

“Coming from such a low base, if we have system strengthening, we should see a huge improvement in a short time – if peace holds,” Zeindl-Cronin said.

The pentavalent has taken 18 months to go from the country’s decision to use it to implementation, but she recognizes that GAVI’s implementing partners still have a difficult task ahead. “It’s easy to come here and put [the vaccines] in [a] fridge. It’s getting them into the children that’s the challenge.”

There is not a great deal of infrastructure to rely on. Somalia has suffered close to 25 years of civil war. Its health system is fragmented, supported by an unregulated pharmaceutical industry and dominated by private practitioners who offer help only to those who can afford it. Private doctors in Somalia are earning up to US$10,000 per month.

A legal framework for healthcare is absent, and the federal state, which includes the semi-autonomous regions Somaliland and Puntland, raises questions about how any system might be structured.

“Normally, there is one food and drug administration. But where? Is it in Mogadishu? Or in each of the zones [south-central Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland]?” said Marthe Everard, WHO’s representative for Somalia.

In addition to the systemic and infrastructural challenges of delivering healthcare in Somalia, large areas of the country are still controlled by Al-Shabab; others are inaccessible due to armed groups that have filled the vacuum left by Al-Shabab. Omar Saleh of WHO estimates that 30-40 percent of southern Somalia is accessible to external healthcare providers at any one time.

Risk persists

In his speech at the pentavalent launch, President Mohamud condemned Al-Shabab for blocking access: “In the certain areas they control, there have been no vaccinations at all in the past few years. Al-Shabab needs to understand that they are not only killing people through explosions, but every child that misses vaccinations they have practically killed.”

The pentavalent vaccine launch is being accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign. Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia Representative, hopes that, once demand is created, the vaccine will reach women even in areas that Al-Shabab controls. “There is no parent in the world who doesn’t care about the well-being of their child,” he said.

F[ourtesyarhiyo Mohamed, who has six children, brought her youngest to an outpatient clinic in Benadir, Mogadishu, to receive the pentavalent at no cost. The mother says she visited the clinic when Al-Shabab was still in the city, but that it was dangerous to do so. “Al-Shabab would question you when you came back. Today, we are happy,” she said.

While prospects are improving, inequitable access remains a major challenge. Paediatrician Mohamed, at Benadir Hospital, calls for a three-pronged commitment, not only from the government, but also the community and health workers. She says motivating and engaging private and public sector workers is critical to improving the reach of healthcare, and the reach of vaccines in particular.

[Courtesy of IRIN]

SOMALIA:Children Main Victims of Landmines

Somalia’s self-declared independent region of Somaliland has experienced an increase in landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) explosions in the recent past, with officials calling for mine awareness education in schools, as children have been the main victims.

“Child victims of land mines have increased in Somaliland in the past two months,” Ahmed Ali Maah, director of the Somaliland Mine Action Center (SMAC), told IRIN. “Some 93 children have been killed by landmines in the past three years.”

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), 400,000-800,000 landmines were laid in Somaliland between 1988 and 1991 alone. At least 24 types of anti-personnel mines from 10 different countries have been identified in Somaliland.

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