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The State of Somalia's Children 2005:An Analysis of A UNICEF Report
 

By Faisal Roble & Omer M Abdihashi
June 17 ,2005

Editors Note: Mr. Faisal Roble and Omer Abdi Hashi rigorously analyze this valuable report on the fate of Somali children prepared by UNICEF. Their analysis highlights the gloomy future of Somalia's children and the daunting challenges of today's generations.

The United Nation Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) has released its annual report, “The State of the World's Children 2005”. It is a comprehensive document with a lot of quantitative vital statistics and information on issues that affect children's well-being such as mortality rate, health, nutrition, education, economics, and many more. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, speaking at the London School of Economics where the report was launched said, "Too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood.   Poverty doesn't come from nowhere; war doesn't emerge from nothing; AIDS doesn't spread by choice of its own. These are our choices."  

Somali War Children

The report treats Somalia as one single country and so does the data reflect one Somalia . How did the Somali children fare? Or to paraphrase Mrs. Bellamy, what are the choices that we made for our children? Based on the data provided in the report, following are tables and graphs that would give you an over all picture on the state of Somali children in 2003.   Perhaps, a little narrative would help to correctly convey the true picture of the state of Somalia 's victimized children.

In 2003, about half a million (516,000) children were born in Somalia . With an infant mortality rate of 13.3% approximately 68,600 died before they became one year old. Of the remaining 447,400 lucky enough to live through their first birthday, roughly 116,000 or one out of five died before reaching 5 years of age. Approximately 331,400 or one of three made it through the obstacles of the most critical period of childhood (age 1 to 5). By the time these tenacious kids were ready to start primary school only 36,454 or one out of nine were fortunate to enroll in first grade. These children lived in a society were only 29% had access to improved drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities were available to mere 25% of the population. With an annual gross income per capita of about $130 in 2003, these children are at risk to malnutrition and a host of diseases that kill in the aftermath of widespread malnutrition. Faced with these odds most of them are not expected to live beyond the age of 48.

For those of you who would like to read the full report this link will take you there. http://www.unicef.org/sowc05/english/fullreport.html . The report is about 150 pages long, so if you plan on downloading it you will need some patience and Adobe Reader to view it. If you prefer to see a summary of what the report says about Somalia and its neighboring countries, and would like to get some prospective on the state of our children compared to those in other parts of the world, the purpose of the information presented below is just that.

Starving Somali Children

First, it is important for our readers to know that the information presented here, particularly tables and charts are the “original data ” from the UNICEF report. We took the liberty to extract data thought to be of interest to our readers and put it into convenient tabular and graphic formats. The data extracted covered individual countries and regions including: Somalia and its neighboring countries, Sub Sahara region of Africa , least developed countries, industrialized countries and The World. Unfortunately, the UNICEF report contained limited data on Somalia . As a result, the information is presented here is limited to basic indicators on issues such as mortality rate, health /sanitation, primary school enrolment and income per capita. Observations based on the data are also provided to put the data into prospective.

•  Mortality Rates

Table 1. Mortality Rates of Infants and Children under 5 years of Age in 2003

Country Under-5 mortality rank (2003) Under-5 mortality rate per 1000 birth (2003) Infant mortality rate (under 1) per 1000 birth (2003) Total population (thousands) (2003) Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) (2003) Annual no. of births (thousands) (2003)
Somalia

6

225

133

9890

116

516

Rwanda

11

203

118

8387

75

368

Burundi

15

190

114

6825

58

304

Ethiopia

20

169

112

70678

506

2992

Tanzania

22

165

104

36977

237

1100

Djibouti

31

138

97

703

4

27

Kenya

37

123

79

31987

127

562

Sudan

49

93

63

33610

102

1438

Eritrea

55

85

45

4141

14

163

Least developed countries

-

155

98

718858

27821

27821

Sub-Saharan Africa

-

175

104

665496

26882

26882

Industrialized countries

-

6

5

949593

10829

10829

World

-

80

54

6286228

133043

133043

Source: “The State of the World's Children 2005. UNICEF, 2005

The above data tells a depressing story about the state of our children. Let us break down by age group.

Children Under 5 years:

  • Somalia has the sixth highest mortality rate in the world.  Children in only five other countries had higher death rates in 2003. They are Sierra Leone, Niger, Angola , Afghanistan and Liberia ranked 1 through 5 respectively. There is one thing that is common to all of these countries. They all fought or are still fighting long civil wars. It is not a coincidence that their children are dying at alarming rates.
  • Somalia also has by far the highest mortality rate in East Africa Region. According to the UNICEF about 516,000 children are born in Somalia in 2003. Of these 116,000 or one of the five dies before each reaching the age. That is more than 22%.  
  • A Comparison of mortality rates between Somalia and other least developed nations clearly indicates that Somali children are dying at alarming rates even by the standards of the world's poorest countries. The death rate of Somali children under 5 years of age was 22.5% and that of the infants (<1 year) was 13.3% in 2003. The corresponding numbers for the least developed countries were 15.5 % and 9.8 %, respectively for children under 5 year old and infants in the least developed countries of the world.

Figure1.   Mortality Rates for Infants (<1year) & Children Under five years of Age

Infants (Under 1 year):

The situation of the Somali infants was similarly disheartening in 2003. Somalia 's record included:

  • The 8 th highest mortality rate in the world.
  • The highest infant mortality rate in East Africa .
  • The death rate of Somali infants was 13.3% while that of African Sub Sahara region was 10.4. That is to say, Somali children die at a higher rate than even that of Africa 's average.


•  Primary School Enrollment, Life Expectancy and Gross Income

Table 2: Life expectancy, Income per capita, primary school enrollment

Country Net primary school enrollment/attendance (%) 1996-2003 Life expectancy at   birth (years), 2003 Total adult Literacy, 2000 Gross national income per capita (US$), 2003
Somalia

11

48

 

130

Ethiopia

30

46

39

90

Djibouti

34

46

65

910

Burundi

47

41

48

100

Tanzania

49

43

75

290

Sudan

53

56

58

460

Eritrea

61

53

56

190

Kenya

72

44

82

390

Rwanda

75

39

67

220

Least developed countries

59

49

52

304

Sub-Saharan Africa

58

46

61

496

Industrialized countries

96

78

 

28337

World

80

63

80

5488

Source: “The State of the World's Children 2005. UNICEF, 2005

The data shown in Table 2 and Figure 2 paint a more gruesome picture about the education or, more appropriately lack of it, of Somali children. What the data for primary school attendance tells us about Somalia is more shocking than the story already told in our preceding discussion on mortality rates. Only 11 percent or 1 out 9 of the Somali children were enrolled or attended primary schools from the period of 1996 to 2003.

Compare that to Ethiopia , the country with the next lowest score, which has an enrollment rate of 1 out 3. When these rates are projected against the total populations of 9.8 million for Somalia and 70.8 million for Ethiopia , the total effect is quite a different story. For example, this would mean that as many as 23 million Ethiopian children were enrolled in school compared to less than one million Somali children enrolled in primary schools. That is a huge disadvantage against Somalia no matter how the data is looked at. Surprisingly, Rwanda , on other hand, enjoys a respectable 75% enrollment rate and is the leader in this category. Considering all the hardships this country has been through, it just makes you wonder what is it that makes Rwanda do so well, but not Somalia .

With regard to gross income per capita in 2003, Somalia with $130 was in the third lowest spot of the countries in East Africa . Only Ethiopia ($90) with a larges peasant society, and Burundi ($100) came shorter. The top spot for this group by far belonged to Djibouti with $910. That almost was twice the $480 reported for Sudan , the country with the second highest income per capita. Obviously, Djibouti has something going for her.

Figure 2.Primary School Enrollment/Attendance and Adult Literacy

Figure 3.   Gross National Income per Capita in 2003

3.0        Health and Sanitation

 

Table 3. Health and Sanitation

Country % of one-year-olds fully immunized against DPT3 (2003) % of one-year-olds fully immunized against TB (2003) % Total population using improved drinking water sources (2003) % Total population using adequate sanitation facilities (2003)
Somalia

40

65

29

25

Sudan

50

53

69

34

Ethiopia

56

76

22

6

Djibouti

68

63

80

50

Kenya

73

87

62

48

Burundi

74

84

79

36

Eritrea

83

91

57

9

Tanzania

95

91

73

46

Rwanda

96

88

73

41

Least developed countries

68

79

58

35

Sub-Saharan Africa

60

74

57

36

Industrialized countries

95

 

100

100

World

78

85

83

58

Source: “The State of the World's Children 2005. UNICEF, 2005

According to UNICEF, “DPT: is a series of vaccines administered to children at the ages of one month, one month and a half and three months. The percentage of children receiving the final dose (DPT3) is therefore a revealing and vital gauge of how well countries are providing immunization coverage for their children.”

The data in Table 3 and Chart 4 indicate:

  • Somalia has the lowest immunization coverage for children under age one. Only 40 % receive necessary immunizations recommended for the children in this age group. Compare that to the 68% coverage for children in the least developed countries.
  • Immunization against Tuberculosis (TB) is at 65%. That is about 14% points below the coverage reported for the least developed countries in the world. At 53% Sudan has the lowest TB immunization coverage.
  • Interestingly again, Rwanda which had seen a lot turmoil during the 90s (far worse than Somalia on some accounts) has an astonishingly 96% immunization coverage for children under one year of age. That is even higher than the 95% rate reported for the industrialized countries.
  • One out of three Somalis had access to improved drinking water in 2003. Access to adequate sanitation facilities were even worse and were available to only one out of four. That is to say that Somalis are by far using un-treated water and discharging their waste in an unplanned way.

 

Figure4.   Immunization of one-year- old children

Figure 5.   Access to Improved Drinking Water and Adequate Sanitation facilities

Concluding Remarks

The above picture painted for Somali children is bleak and gruesome. This picture is undeniably the direct result of the civil war and the continued failure of all its regional leaders and warlords, including those who run their meaningless fiefdoms in their respective tribal lands. All the players in the currents Somalia ( Somaliland , Puntland, Mogadishu , Baybdhabo and Jubaland) are directly accountable to Somalia children and must be held responsible for this ongoing slow but steady mayhem and annihilation of Somalia 's defenseless children.

      

Prepared by:
Omar M. Abdihashi      Faisal Roble
Software Engineer
 VA,
USA         
Urban & Regional Planner
Los Angeles ,
USA
 

Kor

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