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Somalia welcomes back its women and children

With increasing stability in Somalia, the country’s new president has invited Somalis to return.

During the long years of fighting and instability, many families fled across the border to neighbouring Kenya. Around half a million Somalis currently live in and around Dadaab in eastern Kenya, home to the world’s largest refugee camp. Last month, the Kenyan government asked Somalis who’d moved to urban areas to return to Dadaab and other camps, following a spate of grenade attacks. Feeling suddenly unwelcome in Kenya, some Somalis are deciding it’s time to return home, many of them women and children.

The situation in Somalia continues to improve. For example, food production in 2013 is expected to rise. The short rains which fell during October to December have brought favourable growing conditions across many regions and cereal harvests should bring average or above average yields in many places. However, even with good harvests, domestic production only supplies around half the population’s cereal needs. So it’s important that the improving security situation is allowing more aid corridors to open up for emergency food supplies and assistance.

The improving situation has also allowed UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other partners to conduct a health outreach in December. Each year, thousands of children die in Somalia from preventable illnesses. Last month, over 400 medical teams were mobilised to administer immunisation drops and vaccines among young children to protect them against common diseases such as measles, polio, diphtheria and tetanus. De-worming drugs and vitamin A supplements were also distributed.

Such interventions are vital to improve the health of women and children. Over a quarter of a million under fives were targeted by the teams, as well as nearly 400,000 women of childbearing age. The health outreach covered over 25 districts, as well as camps and settlements where displaced Somalis have been living. Having operated in north-eastern and north-western areas, the health campaign was extended to the capital, Mogadishu, in late December.

The improving security situation is also allowing other vital humanitarian work to expand once again. For example, UKaid, the British government’s department for international development, has recently granted 12 million pounds worth of funding to the Danish Refugee Council and Danish Demining Group (DDG). This money will go towards supporting and strengthening Somali communities. As well as demining activities, the work of the DDG encompasses training and security measures to help locals and their children lead safer and more secure lives.

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