By Amor Almagro
Ahmed Hassan Samrigeh, Habibo Abdi Wehliye and Nurto Mohamed Abdi are neighbours in an informal settlement in the Hodan district of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Internally displaced, they rely heavily on humanitarian assistance. For many years, they received cooked meals served in WFP’s hot-meal kitchens in most districts of Mogadishu.
Forty-eight-year-old Ahmed fled to Mogadishu seven years ago when persistent droughts struck his village of Fudow in Jalalqsi, Hiraan region. He can still recall vividly the failed maize and beans harvests, and his young family who needed his support.
“My disability did not kill my hope to raise my young family by farming,” he claims. “It’s the droughts that kept on coming and killing whatever I was planting that did.” Ahmed was born with leg deformities and moves around using his arms and hands.
With the help of friends, he decided to move to Mogadishu with his family.
As for Habibo, 50, she has been living in Mogadishu since 2016. She left her village in Lower Shabelle when severe drought wiped out the livestock that she and her husband were raising.
“We also abandoned our small farm where we grew sorghum. There was no sign of life; everything was dying. We felt so miserable,” Habibo says. Together with her 60-year-old husband Mohamed and their ten children, she decided it was time to move to another place where they could find ways to make a living. A hope for a better life brought them to Mogadishu.
Nurto Mohamed, 29, fled to Mogadishu in 2017. Like Habibo, she came from Lower Shabelle, one of the worst areas affected by drought in that year. She and her husband grew beans, tomatoes and pumpkins in a rain-fed farm, until the rains stopped coming and their crops started dying.
Life in Mogadishu has not been easy for any of them either. Ahmed resorts to begging in Mogadishu’s busy and dangerous streets if there are no porter jobs in the market. Habibo cleans houses or does the laundry for relatively well-off families. Nurto and her eight children rely on WFP’s hot meals and occasional begging for emergency needs.
“We manage to find ways to survive,” Ahmed says.
Resiliency and Urban Safety Net
Ahmed, Habibo and Nurto are the faces of the rapid urbanization Somalia has experienced in the last 15 years. The influx of migrants from rural areas, particularly those who were displaced by conflict and drought, has put tremendous pressure on already meagre services and made urban living difficult for everyone.
Sixty-one percent of the country’s poor are reported to be concentrated in urban areas, particularly in Mogadishu, which is also home to half a million displaced people. Global acute malnutrition is significantly high among the displaced in Mogadishu, currently standing at 16.7 percent.
“WFP has been reaching these vulnerable people with life-saving assistance. It is high time that we also provide them with support that will enable them to meet other needs besides food,” says Yves Rukundo, WFP’s Coordinator for Mogadishu and other parts of the Benadir region.
With EU humanitarian funding, in 2018 WFP transitioned recipients of the cooked meals programme — 125,000 of the most vulnerable people in Mogadishu — to an urban safety net programme with the aim of enabling them to withstand recurrent shocks and chronic poverty. Assistance came in the form of US$ 35 (roughly EUR 35.8) given out to eligible individuals. Priorities include families headed by persons with disabilities, malnourished women and children and those who are chronically poor.
“Vulnerable families can use the cash they receive to buy medicine, pay for school fees and supplies, and pay off debts,” says Rukundo.
“When the head of a family knows that a certain amount of money will come every month, they can plan better on how to use it. The predictability of assistance enables vulnerable families to plan ahead and decide what needs to be prioritized,“ he explains.
Restoring a feeling of security
Ahmed, Habibo and Nurto are all smiles when they arrive at the site where representatives of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a WFP partner, are verifying the identities of those who are qualified to receive assistance.
Ahmed eagerly hands out his card to a DRC staff who inserts it into a point-of-sale (POS) machine as he places his fingers on the scanner next to it. As soon as his identity is verified, he is asked to move along to the next table where he receives US $105 — three months worth of assitance — from the staff of a private bank on contract with WFP.
Habibo and Nurto immediately follow suit.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much money in my pocket,” says Ahmed, who plans to buy school materials for his youngest child and save the rest for their other needs.
With Habibo, Nurto goes to a shop to buy food for her family.
“Allah kareem,” Habibo says. She admits this is the first time that she feels secure since she left their village six years ago with her family. “I have so many things to buy for the house; I need to budget well.”
Nurto, on the other hand, is already thinking of cooking her children’s favourite pasta dish.
Working on a long-term solution
WFP has started working with the Somali Government to have a more consolidated approach to building resilience by supporting livelihood, education and nutrition activities. WFP is also working closely with the Benadir Regional Administration for the ongoing programme in Mogadishu. The vision is to include repairing and boosting Somalia’s broken food systems, as well as strengthening the Somali Government’s ability to promote resilience among families and communities.
“This is the first step towards finding a long-term solution to achieving zero hunger, especially among the chronically poor. We are strengthening our partnership with the Somali Government, non-government organizations and others to enable us to achieve this goal,” concludes Rukundo.