Blog - ECHO in the field

Self-reliance will help us more – say uprooted Somalis

12/04/2013 – Saeda, who is originally from Baidoa in central Somalia, simply does not want to go back; she is ‘home’ after eight years in northern Somalia.  ‘Home’ for Saeda is a displaced persons camp in Garowe, Puntland’s administrative capital and third largest city. Saeda fled to Garowe three years ago from Bosasa, where she had lived for 5 years, with her husband and five children. 

Abdi Nur, an elder who has lived in a displaced persons settlement in urban Garowe for more than a decade, hankers for his home in Kismayo, South Somalia, explaining “I cannot be here [Garowe] for good; I have left family land and children behind – what stops me is the resources to go back and at times, the fear of the security situation in my family home.”

Farihya has been in Garowe’s displaced persons camp for a year; her immediate and extended family escaped the fighting in Mogadishu, in South-Central Somalia.  For Farihya, it was important to arrive in Garowe and be helped by the Government of Puntland with land and security whilst receiving immediate humanitarian assistance from non- governmental organisations (NGOs) like food, shelter, clean water, latrines and basic health care. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) funds many NGOs in Somalia with €40 million allocated for 2013. This includes CARE, NRC, DRC, PAH, SCF, etc. all operating in Garowe.

She says, “I wash clothes for people and collect their rubbish from their homes. My husband does manual work in construction and with this we support our three children and family.  I live as it is my home here.” She adds that if she could get help with cleaning tools it would help make her work safer.

Mohammed Abdi Ghali, the Chairman for the internally displaced people (IDP) Camp is most recently from Mogadishu, and explains what he has seen in his last 18 years in the camp in Garowe, “Food is always a problem,” he starts “CARE gave us food or training or business support – those that got business support are still surviving and those that got food are struggling.”

For humanitarians, like ECHO, who are meant to and can only offer impartial and independent short term help to get the people back on their feet, the challenge is what next for these eternally uprooted people? Somalis who cannot go back, rely on external assistance seek permanence, need services, want self-reliance and need economic opportunities.

“This is a protracted IDP crisis like we see in Afghanistan or Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for example – a mixed group of long term IDPs melding into the urban poor of Garowe.  The role of humanitarians needs to diminish in the coming years and development aid needs to step up; with the aim of service provision and fostering economic opportunities”, said Lars Oberhaus, ECHO’s Humanitarian Field Adviser for Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Garowe is home to over 12 000 Somalis who have, over the last two decades, fled their homes due to conflict or natural disaster as well as hosting almost 60 000 residents.  In many contexts in the world, protracted IDPs and refugees can exercise few of their legal rights be they local integration, return, resettlement or relocation due to hostile hosts or reluctant authorities. 

In Garowe’s case, the local authorities appear to be willing, the residents are welcoming and many of the displaced are wishing to make it home; all the ingredients for supporting self reliance and improving opportunities whilst reducing short term humanitarian assistance.

Malini Morzaria
ECHO’s Regional Information Officer covering Central East and Southern Africa

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