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Clay Aiken: progress in Somalia

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken originally wrote this blog post for The Huffington Post on December 29, 2009. Please consider making a donation today to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children in Somalia.

Clay Aiken on a recent field visit to Somolia.
© U.S. Fund for UNICEF
Clay Aiken on a recent field visit to Somolia.

 

This past November, while we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a grim milestone was reached in the east African nation of Somalia. The conflict and instability which has characterized that nation for the past 20 years has produced a generation in its central southern province that has never known peace.

In this season of peace and goodwill, this jarring reality should spur us to action so that future generations are not lost.

The mere mention of Somalia conjures in the mind of everyday Americans a place where lawlessness reigns. Indeed, the perception is that no other country has done more to place the issue of maritime piracy at the forefront of our minds and within our headlines.

While this may be true…it’s certainly not the whole story.

Last year, in my role as UNICEF Ambassador, I spent five days in northwest Somalia. There’s no question that years of civil war and a defunct central government has left much of this nation dangerously unstable. In fact, half the population of Somalia remains internally displaced and in a state of humanitarian emergency.

This tragic reality affects an estimated 3.6 million people, half of whom are children. Over 1.5 million are displaced as a result of conflict, largely between Islamic extremists and government forces. Not only is this population burdened by violence and instability, but also extreme poverty and recurrent food shortages.

There are, however, glimmers of hope. For one, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has made overtures to place the well-being of children on its emerging social service agenda.

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken originally wrote this blog post for The Huffington Post on December 29, 2009. Please consider making a donation today to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children in Somalia.

Clay Aiken on a recent field visit to Somalia.
© Nicholas Ysenburg
Clay Aiken on a recent field visit to Somalia.

 

This past November, while we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a grim milestone was reached in the east African nation of Somalia. The conflict and instability which has characterized that nation for the past 20 years has produced a generation in its central southern province that has never known peace.

In this season of peace and goodwill, this jarring reality should spur us to action so that future generations are not lost.

The mere mention of Somalia conjures in the mind of everyday Americans a place where lawlessness reigns. Indeed, the perception is that no other country has done more to place the issue of maritime piracy at the forefront of our minds and within our headlines.

While this may be true…it’s certainly not the whole story.

Last year, in my role as UNICEF Ambassador, I spent five days in northwest Somalia. There’s no question that years of civil war and a defunct central government has left much of this nation dangerously unstable. In fact, half the population of Somalia remains internally displaced and in a state of humanitarian emergency.

This tragic reality affects an estimated 3.6 million people, half of whom are children. Over 1.5 million are displaced as a result of conflict, largely between Islamic extremists and government forces. Not only is this population burdened by violence and instability, but also extreme poverty and recurrent food shortages.

There are, however, glimmers of hope. For one, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has made overtures to place the well-being of children on its emerging social service agenda.

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.

18 Comments

  1. Vickie
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Amazing article. Motivating. I hope this raises awareness, and helps to raise money for the urgent needs the people of Somalia face.

  2. corinne
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this article. Sometimes we need to be reminded that it takes a village and we all should bear responsibility for the innocent children of the world. Thanks Clay Aiken for using your voice so eloquently. Thanks UNICEF for being there.

  3. Flo
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I was very glad to read of the progress being made in Somalia. At least there has been advances made in the fight against malnutrition. It is very heartening to know that we have Unicef Ambassadors like Clay Aiken to help with these things. We need to fight for peace for the children of these war torn area’s. There education is also very important. I will be glad to contribute whatever I can to this worthwhile organization.

  4. Denise
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Clay, the focus should be on the children, not the antics of the Somali piracy of ships off their coast.

    Once again you articulate the vast need for intervention and support of the world’s most vulnerable, yet valuable asset…it’s children. May your words reach into the hearts and pocketbooks of many throughout the world. This is a unique opportunity to make a huge difference with a small amount of effort.

    Thank you for reminding us of the true meaning of the holiday season.

  5. Lee Marie
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Clay Aiken. Your words are definitely an inspiration and you are right. All children do deserve to have their basic daily needs met along with receiving an education to help ready them for productive adult lives. My Somalia donation has been made.

  6. Sue
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you UNICEF and Clay Aiken for putting the needs of the children first.

    This situation is honestly beyond my comprehension. $12M is a large sum, but if every person gave $1.00 just think of the possibilities!

    Looking forward to updates and hoping that there continues to be those glimmers of hope.

  7. Luluasst
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for continuing to Use Your Voice Clay.

  8. Sally
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    This articulate blog by Clay Aiken is sure to raise awareness. I had read it in the Huffington Post and commented there as well.

    It motivated me to donate and I hope that others will as well.

  9. Jan
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for letting us know the progress being made in Somalia.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. Pat
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Clay Aiken, and UNICEF for your unfailing work on behalf of the world’s children.

    I send in a monthly donation, but I’ve also sent matching donation in and I hope many others do the same.

    If many people give even a little, we could make such a difference. I hope UNICEF gets a lot of response on this.

  11. Katy
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    This is such a troubled part of the world and I am happy Clay Aiken is reminding us that our help is needed. He is certainly a dedicated man and understands the needs of children.

  12. kallie
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting article by Clay Aiken. He is so articulate and intelligent. News we all need to hear.

  13. Josh
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Sent my donation. Thanks for the reminder, we have it so good and sometimes forget those that just need food, water, and shelter. Very insightful article.

  14. Deona
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the progress report on Somalia… and for the reminder that we need to keep supporting the effort.

  15. Joan Bennett
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    What a great article written by Clay. And a reminder to us that the innocent children of Somalia need our help. Happy to hear there has been some progress made, but we can’t forget them.

    A perfect reminder now, since this is the time for caring and giving what we can for these children.

    Thanks UNICEF and Clay.

  16. Gail
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you UNICEF and Clay Aiken for this well written, informative blog calling attention to the needs of the children in Somalia. Hopefully as the word is spread, enough donations will be received for UNICEF to respond to the emergency needs of the children.

  17. marion
    Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I am glad to see that the plight of the Somalian children is not being ignored completely. It’s good that some progress has been made, but not nearly enough, IMO. Thanks for the work you do, UNICEF, to try to improve things for those children.

  18. lulu
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    The Somalian children need our help, as well as many other children in the world. Thank you Clay Aiken for publicizing this.

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