On June 25th, 2008, Clay fans received the news that UNICEF Ambassador, Clay Aiken was in Somalia. Somalia is a country where conflict and hunger have created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Clay traveled to to Hargeisa, Gabiley and Baroma located in the northwest region of the country, known as the republic of Somaliland. The area is a relatively peaceful area that has declared itself independent but has not been recognized internationally.
Somalia has suffered relentless civil conflict since 1991 when the military dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled from his post. Some of the latest violence in the region has killed thousands and made over one million people homeless.
Clay, who was traveling on behalf of UNICEF, said of the region:
It’s the most dangerous place for a child to be. In the lower part of the country, southern part, I feel it’s a more desperate situation than any other place we’ve ever been.
According to UNICEF, Somalia is a country in which less than 25% of the population has access to basic health services, less than 30% attend primary school and only 29% have access to a safe water source. It is also a place where 98% of girls are circumcised and has amongst the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
Clay visited a camp for 1500 displaced families in Hargeisa. He met a young 11 year old boy who helped support his five siblings and his blind mother. He did this by collecting stones. He was able to save enough to pay for school which he attend each afternoon.
A visit to the Somaliland Cultural and Sports Center was also a part of Clay’s trip. It is an enclosed facility where the girls are able to learn about health, acquire life skills and play sports. It was rumored that Clay even played a bit of basketball with the girls.
Next on his list of visits was to the town of Boroma, where Clay saw how the town’s new water system was functioning. It was financed and built by UNICEF. Clay also visited maternal and child health clinics where nutritional feeding and immunizations are available.
When Clay returned from his trip, he said:
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. 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.
In the last years since Clay visited Somalia, the situation has become so much worse. In 2009, the United Nations agency for children accused Somali militiamen of aggression and hostility against its aid workers and said they were putting over 40,000 lives at risk.
In a recent upsurge in violence, Al Shabaab Islamist militia took over of a UNICEF compound in Jowhar. This was the organization’s biggest operational hub and was located north of the capital Mogadishu. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have been displaced by the fierce fighting in Mogadishu.
Hannan Sulieman is a UNICEF Representative to Somalia. She said:
While local authorities and UNICEF maintain cooperative relationships in many areas of Somalia, we are witnessing and experiencing an unprecedented level of aggression against humanitarian work in Jowhar, a situation that should cause a great deal of concern not only to the aid community but primarily to Somali communities.
Highly valuable nutritional supplies meant to be distributed to 40,000 of the most vulnerable children under three years old to prevent malnutrition were looted by the militiamen, UNICEF said.
The aid agency said that its nutrition and sanitation projects risked total collapse if the Jowhar UNICEF compound remained occupied and inaccessible to UNICEF staff.
In 2010, UNICEF was back in Somalia,working for the children. In 2011, Somalia was enduring the region’s worst drought in decades. The rains finally arrived after 2 years…and the rain actually left many people without their huts. They were made from paper,sticks and cardboard and could not withstand the rain.
Right now UNICEF is working to get clean water to the area and trying to prevent a measles outbreak.
Unfortunately, there was no available video of Clay’s trip to Somalia. Clay did two wonderful short videos while he was there. The first was an informational piece on netting for beds. The other video was about the Tap Project. Both of those videos are available on this site. Look under videos and then UNICEF.
Instead of repeating one of those videos, we are featuring a wonderful montage by SueReu that is about Clay and Somalia.