CHILD RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS CALL FOR SCALING UP OF CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES IN SOMALIA AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Child Rights organizations working in Somalia led by Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages and Plan International have expressed deep concerns on the untold suffering of children due to the COVID-19 crisis and called for scaling up of child protection services.
Experts from the three agencies acknowledge that while the pandemic has been recognized as more than just a health crisis, in Somalia, children’s concerns and priorities have been left out in the response plans—making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Young girls, children with disabilities and those without parental care are the most affected.
This was expressed during a virtual dialogue on the Impact of COVID-19 on children, hosted by Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages and Plan International and bringing together more than 90 participants from across the country. The experts agreed that with schools closed since March 2020, learning and psychosocial well-being has been seriously affected as children, particularly girls, are now exposed to harmful traditional practices including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Early Marriages.
“Somali children were already at high risk of exploitation before COVID-19 pandemic. Now the risks are even higher. We are already seeing a spike in child rights violations. This is very worrying, particularly for girls and young women. We must scale-up child protection services now and prioritize child-centered responses focusing on education, health, nutrition and psychosocial support.” Says Mohamud Aqli, Save the Children’s Child Protection Technical Specialist.
Evidence from two separate studies conducted by Plan International and Save the Children indicate that FGM cases have increased by at least 50 percent in the last two months and this has been attributed to the prolonged school closure.
Hawa Salad, 13-year- old student from Mogadishu and one of the participants of the dialogue said: “I feel we have been left out in the plans and discussions. No one is talking to us. I feel so disappointed and down. All businesses ( in Somalia) are open, but our schools are closed. I don’t know when learning will resume. I don’t know whether I will see my friends again.”
“Today marks the 30th anniversary of the ACRWC ( the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a Child) and Somalia is one of the five states that did not ratify the charter. As we celebrate the Day of the African Child this year, we should look deep into the core challenges Somali Children face during this pandemic and ensure Children’s rights and issues are prioritized in our response. More important, children should be involved and consulted on the decisions affecting their lives, including those on learning.” Said Abdikadir Dakane, the Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Somalia, urging Federal Government of Somalia to ratify the African Charter and domesticate it to ensure children’s rights are upheld.
The dialogue was organized to commemorate the Day of African Child, celebrated each year on June 16th. The aim of the dialogue was to bring to the public attention the urgent pressing needs of children and urge government to put concrete measures to protect children during COVID19 pandemic. The virtual event was attended by more than 90 participants from civil Society Organizations, activists, scholars, child right experts and children. The panelists, including children agreed to work together and advocate for the prioritization of children’s rights in the COVID-19 response plans. This was the first in a series of Advocacy Dialogues on child rights convened by Save the Children and other actors, every two weeks.