Working for Humanitarian Assistance and Durable Solutions for Somali Returnees

It has been almost 2 years since Somali refugees in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, one of the world largest refugee camps, started returning to Somalia. With support from various donors (Japan, France, UNHCR, etc), IOM and its partners, in close collaboration with the government, have so far assisted over 33,000 returnees at the way stations at the Kenya-Somalia border as well as in the areas of return, mostly in the southern part of Somalia. 

For instance, IOM has been providing food, accommodation and healthcare services to returnees in transit as well as various life-saving and developmental support in the sector of health, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), livelihood, shelter, and protection after they return to Somalia.

IOM’s newly constructed shelters in Kismayo, Somalia. Photo © IOM / Sanyu Osire

Since the establishment of the federal government in 2012 which had been absent for over 20 years, the overall situation in Somali has improved drastically. However, there are still 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 4.9 million people who require life-saving services and food assistance. In addition, there has been recurrence of drought as well as cholera and measles outbreaks especially in the areas of return, and the infrastructure as well as capacity to effectively respond to those challenges are not sufficient.


Consultation on maternal health at IOM’s health facility in Kismayo, Somalia. Photo © IOM / Sanyu Osire

Under this situation, however, there are also hopes. Among the youth returnees, for instance, there are many semi-skilled workers as well as those with basic education. If they are properly integrated to the society, they will be highly valuable human resources for nation-building for the future of the country. 


Hearing the needs from the beneficiaries who will be settling in the newly constructed shelters in Kismayo, Somalia.  Photo © IOM / Sanyu Osire

Whilst both IDPs and refugees remain a highly vulnerable group, with ongoing humanitarian needs, increasingly the focus is shifting from humanitarian assistance towards finding lasting solutions to displacement.  This will require both a change in approach from providing displacement affected populations with assistance to address their needs, to supporting the communities themselves, and the local authorities that lead them, to drive recovery processes.