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January 4, 2012

Somaliland:Rebuilding shattered lives, one home at a time


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Somaliland:Rebuilding shattered lives, one home at a time

Burao (Burco),Togdheer Somaliland

Hoda Dahir and Christian Jepsen (04.01.2012)
In Somaliland, NRC assists displaced people to build their own homes. After years in refugee camps in Ethiopia, young Mohamed can now witness how piles of bricks evolve into a new, permanent home for his family.

By The string of banging hammers is shadowed by mesmerizing chants of Somali poetry and mischievous jokes. “Hey! You young ones, we need more water, and hurry. Faster, faster!” shouts a middle aged man bent over his shovel while mixing the cement and sand into a thick paste. A roar of laughter rises from the skeletons of houses growing from the dusty, red soil.

A returnee building his own home in Burao, Somaliland, supported by NRC. Photo: NRC/Christian Jepsen

The sun is at its peak, yet the men laying the bricks seem undeterred by the merciless rays. They are all in sync with the tasks at hand and have one goal in mind – to complete the houses as soon as possible for their families here at the Aden Suleiman settlement in the eastern part of Somaliland

15-year-old Mohamed is eager to learn the craftsmanship of the masons and carpenters working at the construction site. Mohamed’s young curious eyes follow the mason’s matriculate adjustments to ensure that the large cement and mud bricks are placed in exact alignment with each other.

Photo: NRC/Christian Jepsen

“I am proud of the fact that all the workers and many of the masons and carpenters here are from our own community, meaning we are actually constructing our own houses,” says Mohamed with a proud smile as he peeks into the half-finished structure. “This will be my family’s first ever house made from bricks. We cannot wait to move into our new house and settle in.”

At the onset of the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s, Mohammed’s family migrated to Ethiopia where they stayed in a refugee camp. After ten years in Ethiopia, they moved back to Somaliland, assisted by the United Nation Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) resettlement program. Having lost his father, Mohamed currently lives with his mother and six siblings in a cluttered, tiny nomadic Somali house – a so called buul – alongside dozens of other families in similar housings.

Photo: NRC/Christian Jepsen

Each of the 50 houses in this project consists of two rooms, each measuring 4 x 3.5 meters and an adjacent veranda. NRC is providing the design, tools, materials and training for the locally recruited labourers, many from the displaced communities and others the host community. The local Burao government has donated the land for the houses that will benefit a total of 350 people. In many other similar projects, NRC is providing temporary shelter solutions with materials such as corrugated iron sheeting. But for this particular project, NRC has been able to secure the necessary land and funding for a better and longer lasting solution.

The recipient community has been heavily involved in many aspects of the project. Dozens of men from the Aden Suleiman settlement have volunteered to work on the construction site, sharing the work load amongst themselves according to needs and skills.

The NRC assisted shelter project funded by the Japanese government through UNHCR. Photo: NRC/Christian Jepsen

The local Somaliland government authorities have provided sand, water, some unskilled labourers and security for the materials on site; equivalent of a total of USD 600,- per shelter. This contribution allowed NRC to increase the shelter with an additional room. It is the first time that the Somaliland authorities have provided direct financial support to a shelter project.

Looking at his family’s cluttered, ramshackle house made of sticks and plastic sheets, Mohamed is looking forward to improved living conditions, popping up only 20 metres from his family’s buul. “These are real houses that will provide security and stability for our families for many years to come”, Mohamed concludes.

The NRC assisted shelter project in the Aden Suleiman settlement is funded by the Japanese government through UNHCR. Other project components are tracking of displacement and stockpiling of shelter materials for use in case of future emergencies due to drought, flooding or conflict. Mohamed’s house and the other project activities were scheduled to be completed during December 2011.

Norwegian Refugee Council: http://www.nrc.no/

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