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International Youth Day Focuses on Climate Change in Somalia


Tuesday is International Youth Day; and UNICEF, the UN children's agency, is using the occasion to highlight the effects of climate change. UNICEF says young people in Somalia can help curb the effects of global warming to help ensure a better future.

Hannan Sulieman is the agency's deputy representative for Somalia. From Nairobi, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how the country has been affected by climate change.

"I think it's been seriously affected. If you go to any part of Somalia, be it in the north, where it's been more settled and peaceful and less affected by the conflict, we still see an annual occurrence of drought. And it's an issue that's been going on for several years. There are certainly ways that can be improved by looking at strategies such as rainwater harvesting, ground water management, which are all affected by the climate as well," she says.

Sulieman explains how youth can help. "We believe that young people, especially in countries like Somalia that are suffering from civil conflict, can play a major role. They are usually the ones who are most active in their families. They're the most mobile in the family. They can take the initiative and start to do environmental programs within their communities. They can talk to their peers. They can talk to their families and at the same time they can talk to their teachers and other colleagues. They have a bigger outreach than the elders, who are taking care of families…. They the ones who have more flexibility to move around," she says.

The UNICEF official adds that young people in Somalia are more in tune with technology. She says, "They have access to the Internet. They have access to knowledge and they can use that in a much quicker manner than other segments of the population. And they're the future. They're really the future of the country and they have to take that initiative."

However, there's a great deal of conflict in Somalia, the scene of one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. Sulieman agrees, saying it's especially bad in central and south Somalia, where most of the population is. But she says, "In the rest of Somalia, it's relatively peaceful and we have been able to do some development programs. Now, we feel that even in areas which are affected by the conflict, and we know this from first hand knowledge, young people are looking for an outlet. They're looking for ways that their lives can become normal."

She says that many of the street children in Mogadishu say they want an education as a means to escape their current circumstances and that they are fearful about their future. "So I think (with) that extra energy and motivation, there's always space to bring that out. And that's why young people are such a resource," she says.

UNICEF is the biggest provider of education in Somalia at the primary level. But because of insecurity, the UN agency has had increasing difficulty in reaching all the children in need, and fewer children have been able to go to school. As a result, UNICEF is looking into providing more non-formal education programs, such as a few hours of schooling a day in closer settings to their communities.

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