A Japanese funded programme to help resettle displaced people and refugees returning home in northern Somalia this week made major advances as the authorities agreed to set aside land for thousands of destitute people.
The municipalities of Hargeisa in Somaliland, and Gorowe in Puntland, have agreed to UN-HABITAT proposals on resettlement sites. A beneficiaries committee has been established in Hargeisa to help coordinate the development of infrastructure ranging from new homes, to schools, markets and water supplies with UN-HABITAT, UNHCR, UNDP and other international agencies. In Puntland progress has also reached advanced stage.
On 11 March 2005, the Government of Japan pledged US$ 1,895,200 for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and Returnees in Somalia under a UN-HABITAT programme designed to improve the living conditions, security of tenure and economic opportunities of IDPs and returnees urgently requiring assistance in both districts.
A total of 680 families are the direct beneficiaries of low-cost housing units. They include an estimated 2,720 children and 680 women. These households will also benefit from awareness raising and training in hygiene, sanitation, rainwater harvesting, etc.
Approximately 400 people will receive practical training in construction, quarrying and brick-making techniques, and 80 community leaders will be trained in Community Action Planning. The project also aims to help 30 municipal staff in various departments (planning, land management, finance, engineering, sanitation, water, public health) receive hands-on capacity building assistance as construction gets underway.
Indirect beneficiaries include the entire IDP/Returnee community in Hargeisa and Garowe, the urban residents in the vicinity of the improved resettlement areas, local authorities, entrepreneurs in the construction sector and the wider local business community.
UN-HABITAT has been actively supporting the development of urban governance, urban management and the upgrading of urban services an infrastructure, for more than a decade in Somalia. The new programme is being implemented within the framework of UN-HABITAT’s Somalia Urban Development Programme co-funded by the European Union, and UNDP Somalia.
After many years of civil conflict, countless thousands of people fled to the main cities and towns of Somalia, and local authorities have found themselves unable to provide suitable land, financial resources and basic services to support these vulnerable groups. This has left the IDP and returnees with no other option than to settle on public land, without access to adequate water supplies, sanitation and job opportunities. This situation is a threat to the fragile peace process and the general stability of the region. The destitution of people coming home in Somalia from as far afield as Ethiopia requires urgent attention of the international community because their numbers are growing daily.
To address this, the project aims to start with a selected number of families from the most vulnerable groups and help them voluntarily relocate to more sustainable locations, and to provide them with shelter, sanitation and economic opportunities. The approach is based on self-help techniques, in which the target groups are trained in essential construction skills and production of locally available building materials. Homes will be built according to the specific needs of the target community. The idea is that the beneficiaries get improved housing, increased access to water and sanitation facilities and better job opportunities. Based on the lessons learnt in this project, strategies and methods of intervention to address the extensive IDP/Returnee problem in Somalia will be developed.
The funding is part of the emergency grant assistance from the Japanese Government to contribute to the "Consolidation of Peace in Africa", which was set out as one of the three pillars of Japan's cooperation for Africa under the recommendations of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
Somalia Urban Development Programme
The Somalia Urban Development Programme is designed to target all major cities and towns in the various Somali regions through the implementation of tangible projects and capacity building activities in the Urban Development Sector. The implementation of the programme is planned over a period of three years, that started 1 April 2005, with a possible extension for a further three years. The European Community, represented by the Delegation of the European Commission in Kenya, and UN-HABITAT signed a Grant Agreement on 22 December 2004, for the implementation of the programme.
The cost of the current first phase of the Programme is approximately 6.15 million euros. The European Union has agreed to finance 5 million euro (over 80%) of the total programme budget, with the remaining US$ 1.5 million US Dollars funded by UNDP – UN-HABITAT’s main partner in the programme. Other international partners include ILO, UNICEF, the Italian NGO Consortium UNA, and NOVIB-Oxfam.
This initiative recognises the growing importance of the urban sector, both demographically and economically, in the Somali context and aims at promoting an increasingly democratic, inclusive and accountable system of governance as well as more efficient and socially effective local management practices. In a fast changing political scenario, the programme, while assisting both Central and Regional administrations in establishing the main legal and institutional instruments of governance, will target primarily building the management capacities of local authorities and communities. Governance and institutional capacity building will be demonstrated through a range of activities designed to guide settlement growth through physical planning aimed at reducing the serious deficits in serviced land, sanitation and basic infrastructure to alleviate poverty; to promote viable municipal financial and fiscal management systems; and, to promote community involvement, the role of civil society, accountability, transparency and equitable urban growth integrating returnees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups.