Somalia is an extremely fragile state after over 20 years of a civil war, which tore its social fabric, created weak governance structures and generalised poverty. Today radical groups such as Al Shabab continue to be active and over 1 million Somali have fled the country. Young women and girls are the most disadvantaged group across all sectors. They are at great risk of violence, lack educational opportunities and are victims of early marriages. Young men have to face the ever-present risk of being recruited into illegal armed groups. Since 2014, RET International has completed its registration process in Somalia and has, therefore, been able to set its first footprints in the country starting with needs and assets assessment surveys in the border region with Kenya and other provinces in the west and south to define the priorities for upcoming programmes.
The Crisis Affecting Somalia
Its Impact on Young People
How RET Protects Them
1. The Crisis Affecting Somalia
Somalia is a fragile state, which has just recently come out of a 20-year-long civil war. In 1991 the Barre regime fell and left a vacuum of power, which was bitterly fought over until the Federal Government of Somalia was established in 2012. Today elements of instability remain as radical groups such as, most notoriously, Al Sabaab continue to be active.
A gradual improvement took place between 2012 and 2014. However, a mix of drought, conflict, rising food prices and under-funding has led to a serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia in 2014.
Access and quality of basic social services is low. This is mainly due to the absence or dysfunction of existing governance structures. An estimated 1.1 million internally displaced people live in sub-standard conditions and remain at high risk of cholera and measles outbreaks due to limited access to basic sanitation and hygiene services.
Over 1 million Somali have fled the country, almost half having chosen to go to neighbouring Kenya which hosts the world’s largest refugee complex in Dadaab, with almost 330’000 refugees, 95% of which are Somali. Other important host countries are Ethiopia and Uganda with respectively 250’000 and 44’000 Somali refugees.
2. Its Impact on Young People
The humanitarian situation is exacerbating already severe gender inequalities, where young women and girls are the most disadvantaged across all sectors. Young women are further placed at risk of violence when trying to obtain access to food, water, and sanitation due to widespread impunity of armed groups, insecurity and violence. In addition to the lack of educational opportunities for girls, early marriages and associated physical and psychological damages continue to severely erode women’s rights.
Young men, and most specifically the displaced youth, have to face the constantly present threat of forced recruitment by armed groups.
According to the UNDP Somalia Humanitarian Development Report (2012) 70% of Somalia’s population is under 30 and the unemployment rate for youth 14-29 is of 67%, one of the highest in the world. Women’s unemployment is at 74%.
3. How RET Protects Them
Since 2014, RET International has completed its registration process in Somalia and has therefore been able to set its first footprints in the country.
Our presence is still essentially in the phase of assessing the needs and assets of the local communities and security conditions. RET sent research teams to Dhobley on the border with Kenya, Mogadishu and through the southwest, to gather all the information needed to start a programme. Our findings stress the urgent need to establish educational and livelihood interventions for youth, as well as, support for youth organisations to help them play a meaningful public role in promoting peace and preventing community tensions and conflicts.
This preparation is also being done in view of the future return of Somali refugees to their country. This process of return has been activated by the Tripartite Agreement in 2013 between the Government of Kenya, the Government of Somalia and UNHCR, which aimed at creating a legal framework for the voluntary return of the Somali refugees.
RET International has been working for multiple years in the Dadaab camp in Kenya. Our programmes in Kenya which provide empowerment activities, livelihood trainings, formal education and life skills to young Somalis in the camps are, therefore, complementary to action on the other side of the border.