One significant achievement the country boasts is that it has remained polio free since 2007. Also, despite a prolonged drought affecting over 1.4 million, including 700,000 children, there is visible evidence of declining malnutrition rates. This year, in fact, UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) have reported that they’re on track to reach up to 50,000 severely malnourished children—more than double those reached in 2008.
In addition, through the Child Health Days initiative, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) were able to deliver low-cost, high-impact health packages this year to over one million children under the age of five. These interventions included immunization, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming tablets and oral rehydration salts to combat diarrhea caused by contaminated water.
As a former teacher, the issue of education remains close to my heart. Education provides the confidence needed to make the most of a child’s abilities. A protective learning environment can help change attitudes about violence while also promoting equality. Keeping schools operational in communities affected by conflict and in camps for the internally displaced is an essential priority for UNICEF in Somalia, as is providing incentives and training for teachers. This year, in the central southern zone, 89,000 out-of-school or emergency affected children gained access to primary education.
Last month, after being one of only two countries to not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Somali Transitional Government signaled their intention to join the community of nations who have already adopted this groundbreaking human rights treaty. This is a tremendous step in the right direction. But more still needs to be done. A minimum of $12 million is needed to respond to the emergency needs of the Somali population in the first quarter of 2010.
Let’s pledge to make a difference this holiday season for the children of Somalia so that the next milestone the current generation marks will be one of dreams realized for their children.