LONDON (AlertNet) - The number of children killed in Somalia’s conflict increased sharply in October and is likely to rise further, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
Escalating fighting in the Horn of Africa nation killed 24 children last month - nearly double the number of those killed in every other month this year – and critically injured 58, according to the United Nations.
“Increasing numbers of children and civilians are being caught in attacks and cross-fire across the south and centre of Somalia,” UNICEF’s representative to Somalia, Sikander Khan, said in a statement.
Sexual violence poses another serious threat to the lives of Somali children. More than 200 children, mostly girls, have been raped this year, UNICEF communications specialist Jaya Murthy told AlertNet by phone from Nairobi.
At least 600 children have been recruited and used for armed service this year, the U.N. agency said.
Insecurity and violence in Somalia are hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid to children in need, UNICEF said, as the worst drought in 60 years has put 750,000 people at risk of starvation.
“Many of the hundreds of thousands of children already facing a situation of life and death due to famine and disease are now facing the risk of having life-saving assistance cut off to them,” Khan said in a statement.
Last month, Kenya mounted an air and ground offensive against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist rebel group. The move came after a string of kidnappings in Kenya and cross-border raids, which the government blamed on the rebels.