Media contact:Laura Blank
LONDON (February 20, 2012) — As almost one million Somalis seek refuge in neighbouring countries, world leaders gathering in London to discuss the country's problems are failing children forced to flee fighting and famine conditions, says World Vision. New research from the aid agency shows the high levels of trauma children in Somalia are already suffering as a result of the fighting, displacement and ongoing food crisis. With the conflict ongoing and likely to continue into the year, World Vision is concerned about the longterm effects of Somalia's children facing further trauma living life as refugees, says Graham Davison, operations director for World Vision in Somalia.
"The fighting and food crises have made large parts of the country too dangerous for children to live in. Until the conflict is resolved, children and families will continue to flee seeking safety in other areas of the country and across its borders. We have a responsibility to provide for and protect them. Our research shows more than three-quarters of displaced children are already exhibiting signs of great distress; this should be a wake-up call."
Kenya is currently hosting to the majority of Somalia's refugees and is showing signs that it is struggling to cope. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in dangerously overcrowded refugee camps - Dadaab alone holds more than 440,000 registered refugees despite only being set up for 90,000 - and the stress on the country's systems is leading some to call for Somalis to be returned home. This is unacceptable, says Davison.
"Forcing them to return is not an option. There are reports that children in Somalia are being recruited into armed groups, and there's limited access to the vital nutrition that saves children's lives, while the school system collapsed years ago. Any suggestion of forcing children to return to this violates international humanitarian law - and common sense."
The shared responsibility of caring for Somalia's refugee children, and those displaced within Somalia, falls on leaders of countries gathered in London this week, says Davison.
"We need to see tangible, stronger, long-term support to help them cope, and a commitment to increase refugee quotas, to ensure we're doing all we can for host countries and the most vulnerable group caught up in the crisis."
Any solutions for the protracted refugee situation must comply with international and national human rights and refugee law.
"Ultimately, we hope refugees and internally displaced people can return home in safety and dignity of their own volition. But the key to making that happen is an inclusive, Somali-led peace process. There are no military-only solutions to Somalia."
About World Vision: World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews