Child rights organisations call for greater child protection in Somalia
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 coronavirus 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. ■