UNHCR programme provides young Somali males with a toolkit full of skills

Making a Difference, 30 June 2011

© UNHCR/R.Gangale
One of the many settlements for displaced people in Galkayo. The UNHCR vocational skills programme picked youth from these settlements.

GALKAYO, Somalia, June 30 (UNHCR) Barely a year ago, life was a constant struggle for survival for 18-year-old Barre Abdirahman in the central Somalia town of Baidoa. Limited employment opportunities, intense fighting and the threat of drought had reduced the local population to poverty and a bleak future.

"There was no good life there; it was just full of troubles," Barre told recent visitors in Galkayo, which is located to the north of Baidoa in Somalia's Puntland region. He fled here in search of a better future and has since found hope in a training programme organized by UNHCR and funded by Canada.

Barre said that finding work in Baidoa was a desperate business. "You had to know someone who would help you get that job, and afterwards give him some money as a sign of gratitude. My family had little money; my parents each earned three [US] dollars a day from washing and ironing clothes, which was not enough to meet all our basic needs."

When the young man headed to Galkayo he left behind his brother, sister and parents. It took five days by bus and cost eight dollars to reach the town. On arrival, he moved in with an aunt, who now lives in the Al Aamin camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

His initiative was soon rewarded when he was one of 40 young men selected to take part in the five-month vocational skills training programme. The UN refugee agency and its local partner, the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development, visited IDP camps all over Galkayo to find suitable candidates.

Many of them were engaged in low-paying jobs like shoe shining or garbage collection, but lacked the skills to sustain a long-term livelihood. Barre and his classmates learned skills such as welding and carpentry during the course, which wrapped up earlier this month. Each participant has been given basic, essential tools to help them secure work and ultimately set up their own businesses.

"The course has changed my life in many ways," Barre said. "I come from a poor background just like the other young men in the camp, but I'm determined to be successful. I dream of owning my own garage where I can practise my welding skills.

He added that when he had raised enough money, "I will definitely bring my family here and give them a better life than the one they know now. I am forever grateful for this opportunity."

Bruno Geddo, UNHCR's representative for Somalia, hailed the positive impact of the programme. "Skills training is an effective way to empower Somali youth in order to secure a better future for Somalia. These young men, who could otherwise have fallen prey to recruiters or pirates, have now been given a future and are determined to be the force for change their country needs," he said.

The programme aims to equip the male participants with readily applicable skills, thereby enabling them to generate income to support themselves and their families. It also provides a social base for advocacy, protection monitoring and mobilization work on a wide range of issues.

There are currently almost 140,000 IDPs in Puntland, with 60,000 of them living in 21 settlements in Galkayo. Meanwhile, drought and continuing conflict in south and central Somalia is driving thousands of people to flee to neighbouring Kenya.

By Faith Kasina in Galkayo, Somalia




UNHCR country pages

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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