Clay wrapped up his UNICEF trip to Somalia today and "and called on the world to remember the plight of that country's children."
UNICEF Press Release:
UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken Visits North-West Somalia
UNICEF is making a difference in Somalia despite difficult circumstances; Urges world to remember Somali children NAIROBI, Kenya, July 3
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- UNICEF Ambassador Clay
Aiken, today ended a five-day visit to the troubled east African nation of
Somalia and called on the world to remember the plight of that country's
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080703/NYTH023 )
"Unfortunately this is a region that's better known for conflict,
insecurity, drought and floods," said Aiken who has been a UNICEF Ambassador
for four years. "It's truly remarkable that UNICEF is still able to make a
difference in the health, education and overall well-being of Somali
Aiken traveled to Hargeisa, Gabiley and Boroma located in the north-west
region of the country, known as the republic of Somaliland. Here, Aiken was
able to observe first-hand UNICEF-supported projects, which promote child
health, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, primary education, child
protection and girls' empowerment.
Somalia is a country in which less than 25 percent of the population have
access to basic health services, less than 30 percent attend primary school
and only 29 percent have access to a safe water source.
It's also a place where 98 percent of girls are subjected to genital
circumcision and has amongst the highest maternal mortality rates in the
One of Aiken's first stops was the Somaliland Cultural and Sports
Association (SOCSA), an enclosed facility in Gabiley dedicated to empowering
girls through sport and cultural activities.
"The girls here are able to learn about leadership and health, acquire
life-skills and play sports within a safe environment," said Aiken. "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," Aiken stressed. "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
In Boroma, Aiken also visited maternal and child health clinics to observe
nutritional feeding and immunization activities along with projects supporting
children with disabilities, the eradication of female genital mutilation 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," said Aiken, who in recent years has also visited
conflict areas in Afghanistan and Uganda for UNICEF.
"The country is one of the most desperate in the world. 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," Aiken added.
The lack of a permanent central government has contributed to Somalia's
status as one of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world. One of
the most serious droughts since the 1970s has affected large parts of the
country, exacerbating hardships for rural populations.
For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world's leading international
children's organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing
issues that affect why kids are dying. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition,
clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young
lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions
of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper
respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering
organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach
to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about
UNICEF, please visit www.unicefusa.org.
SOURCE U.S. Fund for UNICEF