UN agency marks Day for African Child with call for more resources in Somalia

Child being fed a ready-to-eat therapeutic food at a displacement camp [File Photo]

16 June 2010 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for increased local and international support for children in strife-torn Somalia, where basic services such as education, health, nutrition and clean water are limited as a result of two decades of conflict.

“Somali communities, families, parents, local administrations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), donors and international organizations should have a collective responsibility to put the best interests of the child first,” said UNICEF’s representative in Somalia, Rozanne Chorlton.

“This sense of responsibility should be engrained in various planning and budgeting initiatives for the welfare of Somali children” Ms. Chorlton said in a message to mark African Union’s (AU) Day of the African Child.

According to UNICEF, a major impediment to the provision of services to children and women in Somalia is limited revenue.

For example, Somalia needs to spend $35 per person per year to finance a public health system, but the country is among those least able to do so, especially in the south-central region where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) provides no public funding for health care.

Even where some semblance of local administration exists, such as in the self-declared republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the north-eastern self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, the local authorities are only able to provide 50 cents per person.

The AU’s Abuja Declaration commits African governments to set aside 15 per cent of their national budgets for health. The Somaliland and Puntland administrations spend only between 2 and 3 per cent of their public expenditure on health, according to UNICEF.

“Though there is significant private, community and charitable contribution to health services in the country, public health authorities need to take the lead in making realistic commitments to clearly articulated public priorities within their current financial capabilities so as to attract further funding from donors,” said Austen Davis, the head of UNICEF’s Accelerated Child Survival and Development programme in Somalia.

“It is also vital that the international community finances projects across multiple years feeding into strategically coherent as opposed to disparate short-term projects. Donors urgently need to harmonize and pool their financing with other counterparts to ensure longer-lasting, more coherent and strategic engagement,” he added.

UNICEF noted that existing models of successful public-private sector collaboration in Somalia, which already benefit children, could be enhanced with additional public funding.

“In a country where scarce water resources and uneven distribution exacerbate poverty and inequalities, the public-private partnership approach – supported by UNICEF and its donors – has made low-cost water, sanitation and hygiene services available in urban settings,” the agency said in a statement.

The Day of the African Child is marked on 16 June each year to honour the memory of school children killed in 1976 during a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa, to protest inferior education by the apartheid administration and to demand lessons in their own language.


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