"Somali children were already at high risk of exploitation before COVID-19 pandemic. Now the risks are even higher,
Somalilandsun: Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic Somali child rights have severely been impinged upon with an increase in the number of Female Genital Mutilation
This have promted Child rights organisations working in Somalia led by SOS Children’s Villages, Save the Children and Plan International ro express deep concerns on the untold suffering of children due to the COVID-19 crisis and called for scaling up child protection services.
Experts from the three organisations acknowledge that while the pandemic has been recognised 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,” says Mohamud Aqli, Save the Children’s Child Protection Technical Specialist. “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.”
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, a 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.”
Hawa, 13, was among the speakers on the pandemic’s impact on children. She is in the 8th grade and lives at the SOS Children’s Village in Mogadishu.
Abdikadir Dakane, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Somalia, noted that on the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a Child, 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,” Mr Dakane said. “More important, children should be involved and consulted on the decisions affecting their lives, including those on learning.” Mr Dakane urged the Federal Government of Somalia to ratify the African Charter and to ensure children’s rights are upheld.
The dialogue was organised 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 organisations, activists, scholars, child right experts and children. The panelists, including children agreed to work together and advocate for the prioritisation of children’s rights in the COVID-19 response plans.