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Somali warring sides must engage in dialogue to avoid victimizing children – UN

Somali warring sides must engage in dialogue to avoid victimizing children – UN

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on the warring sides in Somalia to engage in dialogue to avoid the deaths of children and innocent civilians as happened last week when three youngsters were killed in Mogadishu, the capital.

“Children should not be dying in conflict in Somalia. They should be going to school and getting access to social services,” UNICEF Country Representative Christian Balslev-Olesen said, referring to the reported launching of mortars last Thursday into a settlement for internally displaced people (IDPs), which left seven dead, including three children.

“When children die or have their lives put at risk, the political leadership must hasten efforts to bring peace to the country to prevent further suffering,” he added.

Security in Mogadishu has deteriorated as unknown attackers stage hit-and-run attacks on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian forces and they, in turn, have retaliated after the Ethiopian-backed TFG ousted Islamist groups some six weeks ago. Civilians are caught in the cross-fire, UNICEF said.

At a time when UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other international organizations and local communities are working to ensure that children and IDPs gain access to services such as health, education and water, “such incidents of insecurity are a major drawback and can only lead to trauma, helplessness and despair among the people of Mogadishu,” the agency added.

Even under ‘normal’ instances, IDPs live a perilous existence and the latest upsurge in intermittent violence has made their lives worse. Children, already among the most vulnerable in disadvantaged situations, are now experiencing additional stress and fear.

“The violence has already taken a physical and mental toll on livelihoods for too long in Somalia,” Mr. Balslev-Olesen said. “IDP families, which are already among the most disadvantaged in society, have now been forced to flee from their shelters and do not know where to go. The callousness and desperation that has bred the chaos in Somalia must be brought to a halt.”

Banadir and Medina hospitals in Mogadishu have reported admitting several children as victims of the mortar attack, most of them with severe injuries.