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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (April 27, 2017) — More than 1 million children in Somalia are at risk of increased violence, child labor and of being separated from their families due to the devastating drought ravaging the country, new research from Save the Children reveals.
The study of more than 600 people found the impact of the drought has gone far beyond life-threatening shortages of essentials like food and water, and identified high levels of psychological distress faced by children who are exhibiting unusual symptoms like bouts of crying and screaming.
A staggering 100 percent of survey respondents, all affected by the drought, said they’d noticed changes in the behavior of children in their communities since the drought, with more than half saying children had become "more aggressive."
Violence against children was also said to be on the rise by nearly two-thirds of children and nearly half of adults. 30 percent of all respondents said that children were more at risk of sexual violence, like rape and molestation, since the drought began.
Children are more vulnerable because many have been separated from their parents, are being pressured into child labor to support their families and hundreds of thousands are at risk of dropping out of school. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said children were attending school less often since the start of the drought.
"These findings are deeply distressing, revealing that beneath the visible crisis, children are also facing enormous psychological challenges as they battle hunger, uncertainty and overwhelming levels of stress," said Save the Children’s Somalia Country Director, Hassan Saadi Noor.
"Children have become much more vulnerable and increasingly report abuses like rape and beatings as they try to collect firewood, look after livestock or fetch water. Those who have been forced into work, or had their household chores substantially increased, are also at an alarming risk of exploitation.
"As aid workers, we need to do everything we can to ensure children are not separated from their families and that they stay in school, which is by far the best and safest place for them to be. When this is absolutely not possible, we must work to provide safe shelters, with basic protections and offer emotional support to victims."
Across Somalia, which includes the autonomous region of Somaliland, 6.2 million people have been devastated by the drought including almost 3 million children, of whom more than 360,000 are suffering from acute malnutrition.
Noor stressed that in this time of crisis, it was critical for all aid agencies responding to the drought in Somalia to work together to reach the most vulnerable families, meet their basic needs and encourage them to keep children in school.
"It is imperative that more is done to stop children dropping out of school, otherwise we risk reversing much of the progress made in Somalia over the last few years in terms of school enrollment," he said.
Save the Children’s study covered 17 districts in the seven regions of Somalia and comprised interviews with more than 600 people, including children.
Drought is currently devastating Somalia, as well as neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. Across the three countries, which make up the Horn of Africa, nearly 15 million are facing food and water shortages because of the drought. Save the Children is responding across the region to help alleviate the suffering of children and families.
In the last three months alone, Save the Children has reached more than half a million people just in Somalia, trucking water to the most vulnerable communities, activating dozens of mobile health teams who work across hundreds of drought affected communities assessing and treating malnutrition, and providing other vital hygiene, sanitation and medical support.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.