Int'l Community Failing Somalia's Refugee Children, Says World Vision

This Thursday, the U.K.'s Prime Minister David Cameron will meet with other world leaders in London to pound out a plan for stability in Somalia.

The purpose behind the one-day meeting between powerful leaders and international organizations is to come up with a comprehensive solution regarding Somalia by focusing on key issues like terrorism, piracy, and humanitarian assistance.

But even now, as preparations for the meeting are taking place, almost one million Somalis are seeking refuge in neighboring countries because of fighting and famine conditions. New research from World Vision shows that children in Somalia are already suffering high levels of trauma as a result of the fighting, displacement and ongoing food crisis.

The aid organization wants to ensure solutions are sought for the refugee situation this week, and that they comply with international and national human rights and refugee laws.

Nathaniel Hurd, World Vision's policy adviser on humanitarian emergencies, told The Christian Post that it is difficult to say what, exactly, will be decided.

"Somalia has had challenging, complex crises for decades. Many countries are attending the conference, reflecting world concern and the impact that these crises have on Somalia's neighbors and beyond. Whenever there are so many countries involved, it can be difficult to reach agreement, although it is good to have so much interest and participation," he said.

Hurd told CP that World Vision hopes to see those gathered address the short and long-term needs of ordinary Somalis, call on all parties fighting in Somalia to follow international humanitarian law, and find long-term solutions for Somali refugees.

With the conflict likely to continue into the year, World Vision said it is concerned about Somalia's children facing further trauma living life as refugees.

Graham Davison, Operations director for World Vision in Somalia, said in a released statement that 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," he said.

Kenya is currently hosting 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, a camp in Kenya, 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, Davison said. "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."

Aside from refugee camps and war, Somalis are also faced with a drought and food crisis.

The United Nations did announce earlier this month that it has lifted the famine designation that had applied to six regions of Somalia and was first implemented in July 2011. Heavy rains that began last fall led to one of the best harvests in more than 17 years and a surge in international aid increased the availability of food, helping to lower prices.

However, the United Nations has warned that these gains are "fragile" and that famine conditions could return if the traditional August rains are less than expected and if political turmoil in Somalia continues to disrupt the ability of aid organizations to reach vulnerable people.

Hurd told CP that Somalia still remains one of the direst humanitarian crises in the world. The rate at which Somalis die before their fifth birthday is among the worst in the world.

He emphasized that in the coming year, "millions of Somalis will continue to need help accessing clean water, food, and other things to survive. There also remains an urgent need to build peace and end the violent conflict."

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