Somali food insecurity led street children increase

Published on Thursday 14th August 2008

Nairobi: Food insecurity compounded by inflation and recent fighting between insurgents and government forces around the town of Beletweyne in central Somalia's Hiran region has led to a sharp increase in the number of street children.

"More and more children are taking to the streets; some to engage in petty trade while others are just there in search of food," a journalist based in Beletweyne, who declined to be named, told IRIN.

The journalist said children, numbering at least 100, had resorted to Beletweyne streets in recent months as access to food dwindled for many families.

Layla Maowlid, 12, is one such child: "I am on the streets daily to sell sweet potatoes due to the poor condition and hunger of my family, I have no other choice. My mother prepares this food in the house and I sell it in the market."

The journalist said since many local and international NGOs had left the town due to insecurity, only the Zamzam Foundation, which runs the Ughas Kalif orphanage in the town, was providing aid for children.

According to Robert Kihara, a spokesman for the UN Children's Fund in Somalia (UNICEF-Somalia), the agency is currently conducting a rapid assessment of the child protection situation in Beletweyne through its Child Protection Network for Hiran.

"Similar assessments are also currently underway in Bay, Benadir, Middle Shabelle, Galgaduud, and Lower Shabelle," Kihara said. "The increase in children living or working on the street has also been reported by the Benadir Child Protection Network. No figures are stated."

He added: "Among other essential protection issues for children, the assessments will provide insight into the scale of the problem. As such UNICEF is not in a position to comment on figures at this stage. The assessments will be completed by this coming Sunday in the field and will then be analysed.

Kihara said UNICEF was not supporting any programmes focusing specifically on children living or working on the street at this stage, "but we do support programmes that monitor the violations against children, that provide psycho-social care and support to children (for example in Afgoye) through schools, as well as community mobilisation programmes to highlight child protection issues at community level."

He said UNICEF also supports child protection networks to develop community-based responses to critical areas in need of intervention, adding: "This may very well include children living or working on the street.”



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