UNICEF USA Ambassador Clay Aiken talks to Rahma, 9, during a visit to the Somaliland Cultural and Sports Association in Hargeisa, North West Somalia. - UNICEF photo
"NAIROBI, Kenya, 2 July 2008 – During a five-day visit to the self-declared republic of Somaliland in north-west Somalia, UNICEF USA Ambassador Clay Aiken was moved by the work that UNICEF is doing under challenging circumstances." - Source, UNICEF.org
Aiken visited Hargeisa, Gabiley and Boroma in the northwest to witness UNICEF-supported projects in action, including programs to improve children's health, provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene, make primary education available to all, protect children and empower girls.
The American entertainer and UNICEF Ambassador, who is completing his fifth field mission, says,
In a country that’s better known for conflict, insecurity, drought and floods,it’s truly remarkable that UNICEF is still able to make a difference to the health, education and well-being of Somali children.
In Somalia, less than twenty-five percent of the population has access to basic health services and under thirty percent of children receive a primary education --- a particular concern for Aiken, a former teacher.
The country has been torn by war for nearly two decades. Due to this civil unrest, there is little effective infrastructure, and children face malnutrition, threats to health including polio and cholera, a lack of education, and random violence, among other catastrophic circumstances. Despite threats of violence to humanitarian workers, UNICEF remains in the country, responding to these acute needs.
This is Aiken's second trip to the African continent for UNICEF. In 2005, he visited Uganda to observe programs for children who have been forced to flee their homes to avoid abduction by rebel forces, and spoke with former child soldiers who are being reintegrated into Ugandan society. He has also visited Indonesia following the tsumani, observed education programs in post-Taliban Afghanistan and spent Christmas with flood victims following last winter's storms in Mexico.
Somali families want the best for their children and people really want to help bring about change. Fortunately, UNICEF has always been there and continues to provide the support needed to make a difference.
This blog will carry further information on Aiken's trip, along with information on fundraisers to assist the children of Somalia, as details develop.
To find out more about helping the world's children, visit US Fund for UNICEF.
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