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|ISSUE 57, February 22, 2003||
UNICEF Identifies Key Issues In Somalia
Nairobi, February 20, 2003 (IRIN): The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said that the survival and protection of children and women will remain key issues in Somalia over the next five years.
In a press statement, it said UNICEF would also continue to support basic health education and water services. This, it said, was essential to ensuring that children grew up in a society where they would be able to reap the long-term benefits of development initiatives whose foundations were currently being laid.
Addressing a gathering of donors on Wednesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, UNICEF-Somalia Representative Jesper Morch said the programme would continue to be guided by basic human rights principles, chief among which was that of non-discrimination.
"UNICEF-Somalia's goal is to build on progress achieved over the last few years to uplift the status of women and children," Morch said. "In this, UNICEF will continue to fulfill its mandate to enhance the survival needs of children and women, and at the same time will assist in preparing for a future in which civil conflict will no longer prevail."
The UNICEF statement noted that the challenges facing Somali children and women were daunting. "The infant mortality rate currently stands at 132 per 1,000 births, and the maternal mortality rate is 160 per 10,000," it said. "In some parts of the country, one in four children exhibit symptoms of malnutrition. Only 17 percent of children of eligible school age are receiving primary education, and of those in school, less than a third are girls.
"Access to safe drinking water is also a major problem facing Somalis - less than 75 per cent of the population has access to hygienic water resources," the statement added. "Coupled with these are the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS which, though demonstrating relatively low prevalence at about one percent (1999 figs), still requires stringent initiatives in place to prevent a future rapid increase."
UNICEF and its UN Country Team partners and other organizations would continue to strengthen cooperation to "assist Somalis move out of crisis into a future characterized by reconciliation and lasting peace", the statement concluded.