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Somalia: Children need school as well as food

For many children in Somalia, the arrival of September meant the start of a new school year. But, for a huge number of children, school remains inaccessible.

In South Central Somalia, an estimated 1.8 million children aged between 5 and 17 have been out of school. This number looks set to grow even bigger with the influx of internally displaced people caused by the country’s food crisis.

Education protects

Displaced children face serious risks. They have to cope with lack of food and water, they no longer have a stable home or school, and they are vulnerable to harm and exploitation.

For children facing these risks, education is essential to provide protection in a safe environment. Children learn life-saving knowledge and skills, and they become more linked into other services – food, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and child protection.

That’s why our emergency team in Somalia is making access to schools a priority. We’re building on Save the Children 20-years’ experience here. We’re now running in South Central Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland.

Camels and books

As a member of the emergency response team, my job includes developing proposals to secure funding for education services. I recently listened to staff from the East Africa region talk about some of their innovative education approaches. One of my favourites is the camel library service in the Somali region in Ethiopia, which delivers books and reading materials to nomadic communities.

Another is the project in Somalia called Strengthening Capacity for Teacher Training, which works with primary and secondary school teachers. Teachers are trained in teaching skills, and the project focuses on girls’ education and on using effective teaching methodologies that incorporate local materials developed by Somali staff.

This week, as my education colleagues and I write proposals, we’re building on these many years of experience and originality in providing educational support within Somali communities. We’re requesting funds in order to make education a priority in the current crisis and to develop inventive ways to combine education with food and health services.

Food for thought

For example, given the high numbers of children facing acute malnutrition, we’re looking for opportunities to integrate early childhood development programmes with existing nutrition responses. For example, within our nutrition team’s health clinics we’re looking to include child development and play activities for children under five. 

But, to be frank, getting funding for education in emergencies remains a huge challenge. So far funding for education for humanitarian agencies in Somalia has been dire. As a result, education programmes face a huge struggle to attempt to meet the rights and needs of all Somali children.

Save the Children is providing nutrition, health and education services to thousands of children across Somalia. We know access to such services saves children’s lives. We urgently appeal for support to expand our reach.

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