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Somalia's Street Children Fend for Themselves


Life on the streets of Mogadishu is tough. Somalia has no central government. It has no strong institutions to protect children.

Many live on the streets and become victims of crime, sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation. They are also a target for militia recruitment. Some have taken to the streets to earn money to support their families. Others have no families to take care of them.

As a result, many like Halima Omar turn to drugs. When on drugs Halima feels happy. She says she is on the moon. She fantasizes she is in Europe and for a while forgets the mean streets of Mogadishu.

Too few to help too many

Except for UNICEF, a few Muslim NGO’s, and several local charities, many of the humanitarian organizations that used to help children in Somalia have left. They feel the country is out of control and dangerous.

Katherine Grant, UNICEF’s child protection specialist for Somalia, says their situation continues to be dire. “Much of the south is completely out of bounds and monitoring the work of our partners is next to impossible,” Grant says.

Not being able to rely on government support, not knowing who is in charge of the region UNICEF is operating in, is very frustrating she says.

Relief groups must be innovative

“We have to work with local partners in all three parts of Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, to address the problem faced by street children. By the process of community mobilization UNICEF is able to address the issues of family separation, child labour, schooling, and the chronic poverty street children are afflicted with,” says Grant.

Before the war, most people relied on each other and their extended families for support. Since the war, traditional structures have broken down and immediate and extended families often don’t have enough resources to care for all their children.

That is why more and more children must go out and fend for themselves.

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