At the Forefront of Governing Humanitarian Response in Somalia

Somalia - The 16th of January 2018 marks an important day for the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, and in particular for its Permanent Secretary Mohamed Moalim. He and his team, in consultation with a number of line ministries, have been working for months towards developing a National Disaster Management Policy for strengthened national capacities in disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. The seeds of this hard labor have finally borne fruit and the Policy was officially launched in Mogadishu on the 16th of January 2018.

Mohamed Moalim is a participant of the Swedish Government funded Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) Program, managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia. Having been deployed as a diaspora expert in various assignments, he has provided capacity building and technical skills support to the Government of Somalia, particularly in the realm of humanitarian response.

Returning to Somalia Remained a Distant Dream

In 1997, at the age of sixteen, Mohamed Moalim left Somalia for the UK. Leaving behind his family was no easy agony to bear, but they aspired to a better future for him than what Somalia had to offer at the time. Some of his family members later joined him in the UK. 

Surprising himself – having always been the rebel kid of the family – Mohamed Moalim did very well in the UK. He studied economics and business, not so much as a matter of passion, but rather as what he felt was a responsible course for a young man to take. His dreams however kept pulling him in a different direction. Driven by his desire to contribute to humanity, he started to volunteer for a charity organization, UK Refugee Action, in resettlement support of newly arrived Somalis in the UK. This realm of work soon took sway over him and next thing he knew he was working for the local government on resettlement programs for newly arrived immigrants from across the globe. 

During all these years, Somalia had remained a gloomy image at the back of his mind, but as the years spun by, his home country began taking a stronger hold on him. ‘Suddenly I found myself constantly thinking about Somalia,’ he recalls. There was no escaping the fact that he wanted to go back to contribute to the development of his home country. 

The perfect opportunity arose in 2012. The MIDA program offered him a position with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), profiling IDPs. This was in the immediate wake of the 2011 famine, and he knew this was his call. Leaving behind the comfortable and secure confines of his life in the UK was, however, no easy decision to take. ‘It was in fact the most difficult one I have ever made in my life,’ he acknowledges.

From One Humanitarian Crisis to Another

In the aftermath of the 2011 famine, Somalia was a country full of the most harrowing stories. ‘A large number of the population in Mogadishu, and 12 percent of the total population of Somalia, were internally displaced. My task was to map and profile IDPs in settlements across Somalia and I began to travel everywhere,’ Mohamed says. This was an ambitious task, and certainly one that implied great risks to his personal safety and security. 

At the same time, Somalia was not what he had expected. It was hard to fit back in and in the beginning people regarded him with suspicion. But as time passed by he began building relationships and establishing important networks that allowed him to progress in his assignments and career. His honesty, strong courage and high spirits slowly gained him the recognition he deserved and had worked so hard for. 

Over the next 5 years he was promoted multiple times under various ministries of the Somali government, including as Director General of the Directorate of Statistics within the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. To his gratitude, the Swedish government recognized the invaluable contribution Mohamed Moalim provided to the institutional capacity building of the government, and the MIDA program continued to support him – allowing him to carry on with his work for the government.

Following the elections in 2017, Mohamed Moalim was promoted Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. This attested to his tremendous contributions in responding to the ever-tightening cycles of drought that have plagued Somalia since 2011. While 2016 marked a deep humanitarian crisis for Somalia, this time, famine was averted. Moalim was at the forefront in extending humanitarian services - coordinating the cluster responses and assessing the needs on the ground to ensure the correct services reached the most vulnerable people in need.

Now more long-term solutions are required in order to build the capacity of communities to bounce back from exposure to the drought. To this end, Mohamed Moalim leads and coordinates the resilience working group of the Somali government and coordinates the mobilization of resources to implement the newly launched Disaster Management Policy. 


Hope Looms behind the Darkness

On October 14, 2017, Moalim woke up for another day at the office, but the day turned out very differently than what anyone expected. This day marked the deadliest terrorist attack in Somali history, carried out by the al Qaeda franchised Al-Shabaab.

‘When the attack erupted, I knew this one was different. The whole ground was shaking and the windows of my office shattered,’ Mohamed explains. Not long after this, his phone started ringing and it would not stop for next few days. ‘At this point in time, the information was still very sketchy and it took a few days to establish the extent of the tragedy,’ Mohamed says.

‘The next morning I went to the site of the attack. It was clear by then that this was a major humanitarian tragedy. I took the decision to set up a national emergency operation within the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to respond to the aftermath of the attack – collecting data on the number of casualties, registering casualties and people missing, sharing information with family members of victims and conducting hospital visits to see the wounded. It was the hardest time in my life. I remember reading the names of people I knew very who had died in the attack, including one of my colleagues from the Ministry,’ Mohamed says. 

While the attack threatened the foundations of a very fragile peace in the country, Mohamed remains hopeful about the future. ‘It is difficult to view Somalia in the same way as I used to before the attack, but I have recognized that this is my home now and I am determined to do anything in my power to build a brighter future for the country,’ he says.

Looking back at his hopes and dreams as a young Somalia diaspora in the UK – he would never have imagined he’d be where he is today – one of the most influential policy-makers in the Somali government. ‘None of this would have been possible without the IOM MIDA program and the support of the Swedish government,’ he concludes.

For more information please contact Mirkka Henttonen, IOM Somalia, Tel: + 254 710 156 569, Email: