In Search of Safety and Solutions: Somali Refugee Adolescent Girls at Sheder and Aw Barre Camps, Ethiopia
An escalation of the political crisis in Somalia in 2007- 2009 drove significant refugee influxes into the Jijiga region. The UNHCR and ARRA opened camps to accommodate new arrivals at Sheder and Aw Barre in the Jijiga area, and Bokolmanyo and Melkadida in the Dollo Ado area.
As of March 2012, the total number of registered Somali refugees in the Jijiga area was 41,074.11 UNHCR seeks to ensure a fair and favorable protection environment for refugees, and to meet refugees’ basic needs through services that provide potable water; sufficient household fuel and basic domestic items, and sanitary materials for refugee women and girls; shelter and infrastructure; healthcare access; and education for children.
A 2010 study found shortfalls in funding and implementation
capacities in the Aw Barre and Sheder camps. At the time, there was inadequate service delivery in water and sanitation, health, education and provision of non-food assistance, such as household items and toiletries.
New information is needed to assess the current adequacy of service delivery and the impact on diverse segments of the refugee population, including adolescent girls.
Overview of Sheder and Aw Barre Camps In April 2012, UNHCR estimated the camp populations
in Sheder at 11,497 and Aw Barre at 13,509.13 Refugees in these camps arrived mostly from urban areas in and around Mogadishu. Somali refugees from Mogadishu have relatively higher levels of education and more diverse work experience than those from rural backgrounds. There is a high degree of homogeneity in refugee and local Ethiopian Somali clan composition, including religion, language and culture, which helps the local communities accept and interact with refugees. As of 2010, refugees in Sheder and Aw Barre officially had no access to land other than the small homestead plots (about 30 meters squared) they are given for erecting their shelter. Plots of this size could accommodate no more than a backyard or “kitchen” garden.
Since then, however, some progress has been made to increase refugees’ access to land for cultivation and livelihood opportunities. The scarcity of water in the area has hampered even the smallest scale of cultivation opportunities in the past, but there are current efforts to overcome this limitation. UNHCR reported that additional land had been secured in 2011-2012 for pilot drip irrigation agricultural projects in Sheder and Aw Barre.
The majority of Somali refugees have no direct access to formal employment, apart from the few employed as amp-based implementing partners. Refugee women and men engage in petty trade, manual labor and other informal, insecure and lowpaying work. Some refugee women run small “restaurants” and shops in the camps or offer laundry services. UNHCR and ARRA are currently looking for ways to integrate refugee assistance with local economic development through improved infrastructure, expanding livelihood opportunities, market development and poverty reduction in the region. Partner agencies are implementing specific livelihood activities, such as poultry production, beekeeping, tailoring, vocational trainings and a micro-loan revolving fund targeting female- headed households or other vulnerable families to increase their income and support. It is not known, however, whether these livelihood programs were designed through a gender-analytical market assessment of labor and product markets in the camps and surrounding areas. It is also not known whom these livelihoods programs are reaching, or what direct or indirect effects they may have on adolescent girls’ empowerment and protection.
For the more than 11,000 refugee children of school age that UNHCR estimates reside in Sheder and Aw Barre camps, there are simply not enough school places for all to attend. In the Sheder camp, 50 percent of girls and 54 percent of boys are enrolled in primary school. In the Aw Barre camp, 33 percent of girls are enrolled, and 40 percent of boys. Rates drop substantially for secondary school for both boys (30- 35%) and girls (14-15%).18 Most teachers are male (75-80%)19 due to low educational attainment among both refugee and local Ethiopian ethnic Somali women.
In Sheder, there are only two female secondary school teachers, while 15 are male. To address this gender gap, UNHCR, in partnership with the UN Foundation’s Girl Up Campaign, is supporting efforts to increase Somali girls’ attendance and retention in school by providing school materials, solar lamps to study at night and scholarships
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Women’s Refugee Commission
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