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

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

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New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

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The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

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