Halima*, 13, outside her makeshift hut in an IDP camp in Somalia. Halima’s right leg was injured in a bomb blast when she was working in a tea shop. Photo credit: Mustafa Saeed/Save the Children.
Children in Somalia suffer from one of the highest rates of abduction, recruitment, and conflict-related sexual violence in the world, analysis from Save the Children reveals.
The charity’s analysis of the UN’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict found Somalia topped the list in three of the six categories of grave violations against children
Somalia’s high ranking in these categories – engaging in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, and the abduction of children – saw the number of kids affected in the country increase by 23 per cent compared to 2017.
Timothy Bishop, Save the Children’s country director in Somalia, said the report showed the crisis in Somalia continued to have serious consequences for the safety of children.
“These new figures from the UN highlight what a shocking set of risks Somali children are facing,” Bishop said.
“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 parents would experience when they hear their child has been taken to fight a war.”
The report found the recruitment of children by armed groups in Somalia rose from 2,127 in 2017 to 2,300 in 2018.
Somalia recorded the highest numbers of verified abduction cases (1,909) last year, nearly five times more than the next highest – the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 367.
The country also recorded 331 of the over 900 cases of verified sexual violence against children across the 20 countries analysed.
Save the Children is urging the federal government of Somalia to accelerate ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and welfare of Child, and the adoption of the Sexual Offenses Bill and the Justice for Children Law.
Bishop said decision makers and donors also needed to ensure there was physical and mental support for kids to help them recover from trauma.
“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,” he said.
“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.”