Mogadishu, 14 November 2021 – Twenty-four military officers serving under the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA), have completed a five-day training to combat gender-based violence and enhance child protection during military operations.
Held in Mogadishu, the training was facilitated by the United Kingdom Mission Support Team (UK-MST) in collaboration with AMISOM Force Headquarters (FHQ), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the SNA.
The Somalia Deputy Country Representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nejmudin Kedir Bilal, underlined the significance of cooperation between stakeholders in effort to ensure the respect and promotion of the rights of children in Somalia.
“We appreciate the strong collaboration with the Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM on child protection including work on handover of children associated with armed groups, as well as for their excellent coordination between the sectors and UNICEF,” said Bilal.
According to UNICEF, 1.8 million children in Somalia are at risk of violence, abuse and neglect due to the ongoing conflict, worsened by recurring climatic shocks, poverty, and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Somalia recorded 23,374 verified violations against children over the past 5-years (2016-20), with the fifth highest number of children killed or maimed in conflict.
AMISOM Planning Officer at Force Headquarters, Colonel Charles Ayiku, urged the participants to spearhead efforts to end violations of child rights in Somalia.
“We expect you to remain committed to the protection of children through monitoring and reporting grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict and engaging with UNICEF and other humanitarian actors for follow-up and response to individual cases,” said Col. Ayiku.
The Commander of the United Kingdom-Mission Support Team (UK-MST), Lt. Col. Stroud-Caules, noted that there is need for concerted efforts to tackle gender- based violence and child rights violations.
“In Somalia and all over the world, child protection and gender-based violence are issues that need to be addressed, ” said Lt. Col Stroud-Caules.
“The work you will do as Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) and gender officers is absolutely vital in changing the mindset of people to look at children with a different view,” he added.
Major Beatrice Kabanda, AMISOM military Gender Officer said, “The changing nature of conflict has put children in the frontline in terrible ways causing longer lasting implications for themselves and their societies.”
She added, “Exposure to conflict, violence and insecurity can have major psychological effects on children. Unless appropriate support is provided, their distress can go beyond the end of the conflict,” she added.
Lt. Abubakar Ali, an officer serving under the Djiboutian AMISOM contingent, expressed commitment to protect vulnerable children in Somalia- a country with the highest number of child survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“We are here as peacekeepers to also protect the most vulnerable in our population; the children, women and persons with disabilities against any violation. We have stabilized the country and this creates room for better health services, good education, access to clean water and a peaceful Somalia safe for everyone,” said Lt. Abubakar.
Some of the topics covered at the conference included protection against Gender Based Violence (GBV), monitoring and reporting mechanisms, needs of children affected by armed conflict in Somalia, the action plan and standard operating procedures (SOP) on reception, handling, release and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict, among others.