Children of Djibouti

Children of Djibouti

Realizing Children’s Rights in Djibouti

Djibouti is characterized by a young population. Unfortunately, a heightened level of unemployment endures and the difficulties of the State treasury make it so that many children live there in more and more precarious positions. The amount of access to water, food, and healthcare services remains alarming, and all of this, despite foreign aid.


Realization of Children’s Rights Index :
6,68 / 10
Red level : Difficult situation

Population: 792 198
Pop. ages 0-14: 34,3 %

Life expectancy: 61,8 years
Under-5 mortality rate: 54 ‰

Main problems faced by children in Djibouti:


In Djibouti, the lack of employment and social welfare keeps the poverty level high, where 42 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than a dollar a day). This setting does not present a favorable situation for reducing child malnutrition, improving sanitary installations, nor— most importantly—reducing the infant mortality rate.


Despite promising progress, the chances of survival in Djiboutian children remain very slim with more than one child in ten dying before the age of one.

Indeed malnutrition affects too many children, but many never make it past infancy. Many never received basic vaccinations and as a result, many infants die due to neonatology problems, infection, asphyxia, or even from diarrheal sicknesses such as malaria, etc.

Additionally, the availability and accessibility to drinking water varies from region to region with only
52.5 percent of rural households accessing improved drinking water, whereas 69 percent of the in urban population can access drinkable water. Of that rural population, only 17 percent possess the proper sanitation equipment to eliminate excrement.

Hygiene practices are still insufficient and allow certain devastating illnesses like cholera to persist.

Furthermore staff members are insufficiently trained and mothers are badly informed. Practitioners perform traditional operations without proper hygienic precautions, and often without anesthesia, which only adds to the child’s suffering.


Too few women receive HIV/AIDS education and run the risk of transmitting the sickness to their child while they remain ignorant of their serological status.


Even though school is mandatory until the age of 16, children are taken out of school as early as 13. The future is uncertain in Djibouti and in the absence of real perspective, adolescents leave school prematurely, consequently finding themselves incapable of aspiring to specialized employment because of an insufficient education.

Moreover many adolescents use a variety of drugs like qat or alcohol, which have harmful consequences to their health, concentration and judgment.

HIV/AIDS has equally become a real problem for the youth, of which only half use a condom during their first sexual encounter, which occurs on average around the ages of 16 or 17. And yet it should be noted that the age group of 15-34 is twice as affected by this sickness than the rest of the population put together.

Female genital mutilation

Young girls are submitted to genital mutilation between the ages of two and five in Djibouti. Despite a legal ban, the pain and sometimes the complications arising from this practice still persists. Article 333 of the penal code imposes a sentence of five years of imprisonment and a fine of one million Djiboutian francs for female genital mutilation operations.

Yet, no criminal sanction has ever been pronounced, despite the fact that the prevalence of these practices in Djibouti is the highest in Africa (close to 93 percent of women aged 15 to 49 declared in 2006 to have succumbed to genital mutilation.)

In Djibouti, these mutilations fall under three categories. Infibulation, essentially practiced by Somalis, constitutes the most extreme and most common form of female genital mutilation in the country. It happens to 70 percent of girls. Female circumcision in Sunna culture is also practiced, notably at the heart of the Afar and Arab populations. They constitute the mildest forms and are widespread in urban areas, though still violent and intolerable.

Despite the ban, the lack of measures to promote awareness against these practices in Djibouti remains deplorable.

Premature and forced marriages

The Djiboutian family code of conduct accepts a minimum age of 18 to marry. Yet in reality, exceptions are abundant – notably in cases of accord with the child’s guardian – which permits an overriding of the child’s consent with no age limit.

This practice adheres to tradition and is common, notably in rural regions. The right to refuse to marry or to choose a partner whom they want to marry often does not apply and young girls are often forced to marry, consequently being submitted to nonconsensual sexual relations.

Prostitution and child pornography

In Djibouti, child pornography is a thriving decriminalized business. In fact the sale, production and distribution of child pornography must – in order to be criminally punished – constitute an offensive moral attack, which is only punishable by a fine or a year of imprisonment and is left to the discretion of the judge.

Prostitution is equally widespread in Djibouti. Of the 2,430 people arrested for prostitution in 2009, 408 were between 10 and 17 years old. Unfortunately, upon retiring, these child prostitutes often become pimps and establish their own child prostitution rings.


Large differences in treatment between needy children and others exist. Notably street children, migrant children, refugees and handicapped children often face discrimination from the society at large. In the absence of protective legislation and training from attentive and caring personnel, their access to care and basic services such as education is equally restricted.


Orphans are numerous in Djibouti. Children in fact have at least 50 times more of a chance of losing their birth mother than European or American children.

This is notably the consequence of female genital mutilations and the lack of prenatal visits.

Moreover, international adoption practices do not respect regulations and many orphans, Djiboutian and foreign, are transported outside of the country in shady adoption schemes.


Despite positive progress, preschool education is not well known and it is for the most part of private. School is obligatory at the age of six until sixteen.

In the end only a little over one in two children aged 6 to 12 are educated, despite the availability of public education. In fact, other expenses linked to supplies often limit the access children have to school, such as: overfilled classrooms, high rates of absent teachers, a lack of educational material and supplies, limited offers, and the distance rural students must travel in order to get to school, etc. In the south of the country, for example, absenteeism is often due to the nomadic culture of the population, which renders the service unsuitable.

As a result adolescents aged from 13 to 18 are for the most part uneducated since 59 percent are not enrolled in school establishments.

Efforts have been accomplished however, notably during the 2000’s, thanks to the construction of additional scholarly establishments.

Enfin, et bien que le système ne soit pas discriminant en lui-même, moins de filles fréquentent l’école que de garçons. Ce phénomène s’explique par la réalité du terrain qui désavantage les filles en raison de l’éloignement de longs trajets peu sûrs en résultant, du manque d’infrastructures comme de latrines séparées, ou encore de l’accès à l’eau

It is a shame that education and professional direction will not attain its potential nor be adapted to the needs of the workforce.


Corporeal punishments are prohibited at school but remain lawful at home. The efforts undertaken to prevent and punish these types of practices have not been successful, especially in rural areas where the population is less aware nonviolent forms of discipline.

The law does not facilitate the separation of children from their parents in cases of abuse or negligence because there remains a lack of infrastructure to care for the children after the separation. Additionally, there are very few registered complaints of child abuse.

Child labor

Although child labor is prohibited by law, it is often practiced in various, non-dangerous fields of work such as domestic work, agriculture, livestock farming, etc. The lack of inspectors limits investigations and thus child labor practices often persist.

Street children

Many children live in the streets in Djibouti and are often the target of economic and sexual exploitation and violence. They are exposed to prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, and do not have access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, food, lodging and other social services.

Too few efforts are actually undertaken by the country to help these children get out of this situation.

Legal system and detention

The Djiboutian judiciary system does not sufficiently take into account minors. The absence of special courts for minor delinquents are reprehensible. Court decisions made against children in trouble with the law are repressive in nature and do not consider educational or socialization options.

In addition, the conditions of minor detention centers are not favorable to their development. They can actually be detained – from the age of 13 – for long periods of time both before and after the legal process. They are not generally separated from adults and often have their visitation rights scorned.

In the child’s best interest

The notion of the best interest for the child is not always taken into account in the course of the administrative and judiciary procedures. The participation of the child in the decisions that concern them in family, school and community settings remains very limited.

Birth registrations

To this day, close to one child in five do not have a birth certificate in Djibouti. Despite informative campaigns by the government on the importance of registration, the tax charged in exchange for this service hinders parents from registering births. Foreign children who do not go to school are deeply affected by this phenomenon.