Future of more than a million Somali children on a knife-edge

On UN International Peace Day (21 September, 2006) Save the Children is pressing for a peaceful resolution to the Somali crisis that will lead to a degree of stability – something that has eluded a whole generation of Somali children.

Peace talks in Khartoum between the Transitional Federal Government and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts have not yielded any firm political agreement, and until the next meeting at the end of October the situation remains in hazardous limbo.

“If the current stand-off ignites into full open conflict, the resulting humanitarian crisis could easily dwarf that experienced in 1991, leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk of malnutrition, injury, death, displacement and abuse, ” said Ian Trask, Save the Children’s Security Advisor, who has just returned from a mission to Somalia.

Children are most vulnerable and suffer disproportionately as a result of conflict through witnessing and becoming victims of atrocities, as well as through displacement and separation from their families.

El Khidir Daloum, Save the Children’s Country Director for Somalia said: “The longer the parties take to reach a political settlement, the greater the potential for renewed conflict. This would lead to further hardship for children and their families who are already struggling to cope with the effects of the recent drought. We would like to see all parties involved in the crisis make children the focus of attention at this decisive moment.”

Approximately one million children in the South of Somalia are already living in a state of emergency, and in many regions, 20% of under-fives suffer from acute malnutrition. Almost a quarter of children in Somalia die before their fifth birthday. There are currently around 400,000 displaced people within the country – and widespread conflict will inevitably result in further massive displacement.

On the UN International Day of Peace, Save the Children is calling for:

1. All international actors to do all they can to encourage continued constructive dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and
Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, in order to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current crisis.

2. The resolutions agreed to on the 22nd of June need to be monitored by independent observers to increase the chances of their being complied with. Transgressions will increase the likelihood of conflict before the planned October 30th peace talks.

3. Donor agencies must play a positive role in averting a large-scale conflict within Somalia and be prepared to quickly scale up support to the region, with a focus on emergency preparedness and addressing children’s immediate needs.

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