Mogadishu, Somalia – Twenty-four military officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA) have undergone five days of training to combat gender-based violence and improve child protection during military operations.
The training was held in Mogadishu and facilitated by the United Kingdom Mission Support Team (UK-MST) in collaboration with the AMISOM Force Headquarters (FHQ), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the SNA.
Somalia’s Deputy National Representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nejmudin Kedir Bilal, emphasized the importance of stakeholder cooperation to ensure respect for and promotion of children’s rights in Somalia.
“We appreciate the strong cooperation with the Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM on child protection, including work on the transfer of children associated with armed groups, as well as for their excellent coordination between the sectors and UNICEF,” Bilal said.
According to UNICEF, 1.8 million children in Somalia are at risk of violence, abuse and neglect due to the ongoing conflict, which is exacerbated by recurring climate shocks, poverty and the socio-economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic.
Somalia has registered 23,374 verified violations against children in the last 5 years (2016-20), with the fifth highest number of children killed or maimed in conflict.
AMISOM planning officer at the force’s headquarters, Colonel Charles Ayiku, urged participants to take the lead in efforts to stop child rights violations in Somalia.
“We expect you to remain committed to the protection of children by monitoring and reporting serious violations against children in situations of armed conflict and engaging with UNICEF and other humanitarian actors to follow up and respond to individual cases,” said Colonel Ayiku.
The commander of the United Kingdom Mission Support Team (UK-MST), Lieutenant Colonel Stroud-Caules, noted that there is a need for concerted efforts to address gender-based violence and violations of children’s rights.
“In Somalia and around the world, child protection and gender-based violence are issues that need to be addressed,” said Lieutenant Colonel Stroud-Caules.
“The work you will do as a Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) and gender officer is absolutely crucial to change people’s way of thinking about children with a different view,” he added.
Major Beatrice Kabanda, AMISOM’s military gender officer, said: “The changing nature of the conflict has put children at the forefront in terrible ways and caused more long-term consequences for themselves and their communities.”
She added, “Exposure to conflict, violence and insecurity can have major psychological effects on children. If appropriate support is not given, their distress may go beyond the end of the conflict,” she added.
Lieutenant Abubakar Ali, an officer serving under the Djiboutian AMISOM contingent, pledged to protect vulnerable children in Somalia – a country with the highest number of children who have survived rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“We are here as peacekeeping forces to also protect the most vulnerable in our population; children, women and people with disabilities against every violation. We have stabilized the country and this creates space for better health care, good education, access to clean water and a peaceful Somalia that is safe for all, ”said Lieutenant Abubakar.
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Some of the topics discussed at the conference were protection against gender-based violence (CFSP), monitoring and reporting mechanisms, needs of children affected by armed conflict in Somalia, the Action Plan and standard procedures (SOPs) for the reception, handling, release and reintegration of children who affected by, among other things, armed conflict.
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