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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

UNICEF Ambassador, Clay Aiken, says organization is making a difference in Somalia despite difficult circumstances  

ReliefWeb

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Date: 01 Jul 2008

American entertainer visits north-west Somalia and urges the world to remember Somali children

Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday 1 July 2008 – A five-day visit to north-west Somalia (the self-declared republic of ‘Somaliland’) has UNICEF Ambassador, Clay Aiken, moved by the work that UNICEF is doing under challenging circumstances. ‘In a country that’s better known for conflict, insecurity, drought and floods, it’s truly remarkable that UNICEF is still able to make a difference to the health, education and well-being of Somali children’ said Aiken.

The ambassador traveled to Hargeisa, Gabiley and Boroma to see first-hand, UNICEF-supported projects to promote child health, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, primary education, child protection and girls’ empowerment.

Somalia is a country in which less than 25% of the population has access to basic health services, less than 30% attend primary school and only 29% have access to a safe water source. It's also a place where 98% of girls are circumcised and has amongst the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Playing basketball with girls in the enclosed facility of the Somaliland Cultural and Sports Association (SOCSA), Aiken saw the opportunity given to females by the UNICEF-supported organization. ‘Here, girls are able to learn about leadership and health, acquire life-skills and play sports within a safe environment. Even the youngest girls that I’ve met at SOCSA, impressed me with how confident and articulate they are as a result of this project.’

At a camp for 1500 internally displaced families in Hargeisa, Aiken met 11 year old Abduraman, who helps to support his five siblings and blind mother by working each morning to collect stones. He uses his earnings to pay for school which he attends in the afternoon. ‘Somalia has some of the lowest enrollment rates in the world, but every child has the right to an education. UNICEF is working to help ensure that even working children get to go to school.’ UNICEF has also provided the camp with child protection monitors, teacher-training and school materials.

In Boroma, Aiken saw how the town’s water system is functioning thanks to UNICEF support. Under a public/private partnership, the system provides clean water to 95% of the town’s population including schools and hospitals. Aiken also visited maternal and child health clinics to see nutritional feeding and immunization activities along with projects supporting children with disabilities, the eradication of female genital mutilation/cutting and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

‘Now that I have seen Somalia for myself, I feel it is important for the American public to remember that the Somali people have the same dreams for their children that we do. Somali families still want the best for their children and people really want to help bring about change. Though the situation in Somaliland is less dangerous for children than in the south, the country is one of the most desperate in the world. The country has been without a functioning government for almost twenty years. Fortunately, UNICEF has always been there and continues to provide the support needed to make a difference. No other organization is more capable of making such a difference than UNICEF."

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Denise Shepherd-Johnson, Chief, Communication, UNICEF Somalia, Tel: +254 20 762-3958; Mob: +254 722 919 867; E-mail: dshepherdjohnson@unicef.org

Marissa Buckanoff, Director, Public Relations, United States Fund for UNICEF, Tel: +1 212 922 2485; E-mail:MBuckanoff@unicefusa.org

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