Now entering the third decade of its violent civil war, Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa that has faced a lot of turbulence over the years and remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Among some of the gravest humanitarian emergencies of the year 2018, the Somalia refugee crisis remains very crucial and significant due to its impacts on national security, regional politics, terrorism and poverty.
How Did the Situation Arise?
The premise of the current situation is embedded in Somalia’s complex and clamorous history. Often deemed a “failed” country, militias infiltrated the capital Mogadishu back in 2006. Despite the new government achieving some semblance of stability, the country still faces challenges with the new establishment and repeated threats from terror groups like Al-Shahab. There is now an ongoing conflict between the African Union-backed government of Somalia and various terrorist factions in the country.
Where Does Somalia Stand Now?
According to a report by Amnesty International, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia peaked at around 2.1 million in November of 2017. Also, there are over 490,000 refugees in Kenya and 240,000 in Ethiopia. The threat of refoulement, or the forcible return of refugees to their home countries, is a very common concern associated with the Somalia refugee crisis.
Moreover, the closing of the Dabaab refugee camp, one of the largest informal settlements in the world, will aggravate existing issues due to the massive influx of refugees and unregistered individuals passing the border. Over the past 24 years, Dabaab camp has been plagued by famine, drought, shortages and other deficiencies. Dabaab has already exceeded its carrying capacity in recent years from holding 160,000 individuals to more than half a million in the present day.
A further 100,000 refugees belong to Kakuma camp and 30,000 are currently living in urban areas in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi. Moreover, life for Somali refugees who have fled to Indonesia are constantly threatened by the fear of persecution at the hands of militants and food insecurity.
What is Being Done for the Somalia Refugee Crisis?
At this juncture, addressing the short term problems of the Somalia refugee crisis is a key priority. There is already a major funding gap for many of the humanitarian conflicts impacting African nations at present. The funding for Somalian refugees stands at only $365 million.
Since 2016, the Somali and Kenyan governments have worked collectively with the UNHCR to address the prevailing issues concerning the closure of the Dabaab refugee camp, particularly the need for an effective repatriation program. According to a report by Xinhua, the U.N. refugee agency recently helped over 78,000 Somali refugees as part of their voluntary repatriation program with the cooperation of Dabaab refugee camp.
The UNHCR is also working to address the impacts of the conflict through the provision of education, healthcare, livelihood and community-based initiatives. Food rationing is a common practice at refugee camps owing to the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, the International Rescue Committee is providing crucial humanitarian assistance and support to over 280,000 Somali refugees.
Foreign Aid for the Cause
Though limited in many ways, foreign aid is also a big source of assistance for the Somalia refugee crisis. In 2017, the United Kingdom announced a three-year $75 million program to help African countries cope with supporting new asylum seekers.
For the past seven years, Turkey has been providing aid and support by collaborating with different government and nongovernmental organizations in the region. This includes important humanitarian assistance, food aid and development projects in agriculture and education worth $121.9 million.
Additionally, the Turkish Red Crescent has spent over $47 million in assisting Somali refugees since the year 2011. Security Ministers in the East African region are also working to catalyze the implementation of an Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to help allocate resources and promote solutions to the Somalia refugee crisis.
Mitigating the negative impacts of the Somalia refugee crisis is essential in breaking the cycle of the poverty trap that generations of individuals have suffered over the years. Solving the humanitarian crisis will hopefully provide solutions to other crucial domestic issues in future.
– Shivani Ekkanath