MOGADISHU— Somalia's president signed into law the Convention on the Rights of the Child on January 20. Somalia’s children continue to face daily challenges posed by conflict, displacement, malnutrition and disease. One in seven die before reaching the age of five and fewer than half of the children attend school.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud officially ratified the convention on the rights of children at a ceremony held in a Mogadishu school.
“We want our children to be leaders who can take on national and international responsibilities. Some of the children in front of me today will be among the leaders that take responsibility for the Somali nation and the world as well,” said the president.
Somalia is the 195th state party to sign the document. The convention articulates a set of universal rights to protect children. Among them is right to life, survival and development.
Decades of conflict in the East African nation have raised its child and maternal mortality rates to among the worst in the world. But with the recent signing, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has expressed hope that in the near future Somalia's government will be in a position to protect its own children.
"UNICEF looks forward to working with the government to implement this Convention and work towards achieving key results on the protection of children's rights within the next two years. The next two years are actually key because as a government they will be submitting the first progress report of the implementation of this Convention,” said UNICEF Somalia country representative, Stephen Lauwerier.
According to U.N. figures, one in seven Somali children die before reaching the age of five, mostly from preventable illnesses, and only four in 10 children are in school.
Human rights activists in Mogadishu welcomed the signing as a positive step. Amina Arale of the Somali Women Development Center (SWDC) said the Somali government would now be held accountable for any violation against children.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to ensure the rights of children are protected. By signing the agreement, the government can be held accountable on any crime committed on children at the courts. The Somali children now have a golden opportunity and will have their rights protected,” she said.
Although implementing the accord will take time, the government said it would now work on drafting and adopting child-friendly policies and systems, implement measures to boost child survival, development, participation and protection, and provide regular reports on its progress to the U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child.