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Children in Somalia face highest rates of abduction, recruitment, and conflict-related sexual violence in the world

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Somalia
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Save the Children
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Save the Children is horrified to learn Somali children are suffering the most in three out of six of the UN-mandated grave violations in times of war as a result of the protracted crisis in the country.

Our analysis of the UN’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, released last week, reveals that Somalia topped three of the six categories of grave violations against children, including engaging in the recruitment and use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, and the abduction of children. According to the report, the number of children affected by grave violations in Somalia in 2018 increased by 23 per cent compared with 2017.

Somalia also ranked highly in the three other grave violations - the killing and maiming of children, denial of humanitarian access, and attacks on schools and/or hospitals.

The report reveals that the recruitment of children by armed groups increased compared with 2017 (2,300 in 2018, from 2,127 in 2017), including by forcing elders, teachers and parents to provide children or face reprisal. Furthermore, hundreds of children, many unaccompanied, have fled their homes to escape forced recruitment.

The report further shows the highest numbers of verified cases of abduction in 2018 took place in Somalia (1,609 cases) – nearly five times more than the country with the next highest number (the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 367). Somalia also represented over one third (331) of the over 900 cases of verified rape and other forms of sexual violence against girls and boys across all countries.

In response to these shocking findings, Timothy Bishop, Save the Children’s Country Director in Somalia, said:

“We see from this report that the crisis in Somalia continues to have serious consequences for the protection of children. Violations and abuses, such as sexual and gender-based violence, and child recruitment remain a pervasive feature of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. These new figures from the UN highlight what a shocking set of risks Somali children are facing. Recruitment of children to be used in armed conflict not only violates their rights but also exposes them to other risks of violence, exploitation, abuse and death. As a father, I cannot imagine the despair parent would experience when they hear their child has been taken to fight a war.

“We know that if children survive being abducted, recruited or sexually assaulted – perhaps all three - and return to their families, they can have scars that might never heal. These kids need targeted support to get them back into school and back on track for better futures. This war on children needs to stop.”

Save the Children is urging all parties to conflict to abide to international human rights and humanitarian laws. To ensure stronger protection of children, Save the Children is urging the Federal Government of Somalia to accelerate the ratification and domestication of the African Charter on the Rights and welfare of Child, the adoption of the Sexual Offenses Bill, and Justice for Children Law. Parents, teachers and communities must play their role in protecting children from being recruited and are strongly encouraged to use all means of communication to assert that using children to participate in armed conflict is not acceptable. Decision makers and donors need to ensure there is support – physical and mental – for children to help them recover from the harm done to them in conflict.

As the world’s leading independent organization for children; realizing children’s rights is at the heart of Save the Children’s mission. Through the Stop the War on Children global campaign, the organisation is campaigning to keep schools safe, seek accountability for crimes against children and pursue new ways to support their recovery from the horrors of conflict.

Save the Children has worked in Somalia for over 60 years, since 1951, and is a national and international leader in humanitarian and development programming in health, nutrition, education, child protection and child rights governance. In 2018, Save the Children reached 2.5 million people in Somalia, of which 55% were children.