Under an ambitious pilot programme in the northern Somalian port city of Bosaso, United Nations agencies, a non-governmental organization (NGO) and local communities have joined forces to relocate 120 internally displaced families who have fled intense fighting as well as 30 local poor families.
Bosaso, located in the Galkayo area of Somalia’s northern autonomous Puntland region, is currently home to 16 settlements of internally displaced persons (IDPs) housing up to 30,000 of those who have escaped fighting in southern and central Somalia.
Under the pilot project some 900 people receive their own plots of land donated by local landowners. Six UN agencies – the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Habitat, UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – and one NGO, the Dutch Refugee Council, are also involved in the project.
From four settlements, 30 families each will be selected based on several criteria, such as whether they have lived in Bosaso for at least five years, have more than three children and own no land in Puntland. The 30 local families will be selected by a town committee.
Each family will receive a shelter kit and material to build the first room of their new home from the UN agencies. Water outlets will also be provided, and for protection, a wall will be built around each group of 30-40 land plots. There are also plans to build police stations and schools for the new communities.
Presently, IDPs in the settlements live in dire poverty and conditions are grim. Shelters are lean-to and are made of highly-flammable rags, sticks and cardboard, and settlements lack adequate education and health facilities. In particular, there is an acute shortage of latrines, which increases the risk of sexual violence against women who must go outside the settlements.
The efforts of UN agencies and other aid organizations have not been enough to meet the challenges posed by an ever-increasing IDP population.
“All the IDPs are needy, so all of us would like to have our own home immediately,” said a representative of one settlement, most of whose 2,500 inhabitants fled fighting in south-central Somalia and do not want to go back.
Despite monitoring by a UNHCR team to help ensure transparency and avoid arguments, he pointed to the inevitable disappointment for many when the families chosen to participate are announced. “It is hard to explain to people that only 30 families [per settlement] will receive a plot of land,” he added.
Participants in the scheme would like to help more families in Bosaso’s IDP settlements, but the continuation of the project hinges on the availability of land and funds.