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Dignified Living for the Displaced

The Mayor of Mogadishu wanted a fully integrated and dignified Mogadishu for all. His advisor, Dr. Hodan Ali exclusively sat down with The Somalia Investor Magazine for a chat on the steps the municipality is taking towards realising this.

Bashiir J. Addow

Hodan Ali works for Benadir Regional Administration as the Humanitarian and Durable Solutions Director and Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Mogadishu on Development and Displacement.  

Durable Solutions is about finding lasting solutions for displacement. A lot of countries in Africa and even in Asia and Middle East countries have a lot of internally displaced people and refugees. For Hodan, this is a united effort at finding sustainable means of living for these people instead of them living as destitute in displacement.

The city of Mogadishu is said to be hosting over 800,000 internally displaced people who have fled other regions of the country and are causing a lot of challenges when it comes to managing the city.  Her office is tasked with finding solutions for displacement in this particular context.  The office has been operational for a year and she works directly with the mayor and her office is directly under the mayor’s leadership.

Stepping in

Hodan left Somalia as a child in 1989, grew up and studied in Canada. She is a nurse by training, having undertaken her studies at McMaster University in Canada. In 2011, at the height of the famine, she came back to Somalia with a medical team from Canada and stayed for about a month. They went back but in August 2016, she officially relocated back to the country. She opened a clinic (for primary health care) which she ran for 8 months before going to work in government.

In 2017, then-Mayor of Mogadishu, Thabit Mohamed, reached out to her, asked her to help in supporting the municipality (city) reform its health sector. With her background in healthcare, he thought she would be valuable. Three of his main needs were security, health and education.

“I had worked as a primary healthcare practitioner for 13 years in Canada and even founded and ran Refuge Hamilton Center for New-Comer Health, a clinic in Ontario. This has been running since 2011. The switch to working with the municipality on health matters wasn’t a big leap for me since my interest has always been in working with individuals and communities in displacement,” she explains.

After one year of working with the municipality and understanding the biggest challenges affecting the displaced, they created the Durable Solutions Unit. Mayor Thabit had left and had been replaced by (the now late) Mayor Eng. Abdirahman Omar Osman ‘Yarisow’.

A strategy that works

He too asked her to work with him on displacement specifically. To support him in working on the major problem of IDPs in Mogadishu. He wanted to know what the municipality could do in terms of a humanitarian strategy, working with the international community, the Federal Government and the Somali community to come up with ways of managing the issue of displaced people in Mogadishu.

In January 2019, the unit was officially launched with support from the EU.

She clarifies what the unit has been up to; “The Unit’s mandate included finding sustainable solutions in terms of how the local government can manage the challenge, how to secure rights for the displaced, local integration, dignified living (Mogadishu holds about 25% of the IDPs in Somalia) and enhancing coordination between the government (local and Federal) and key partners like local and international NGOs, civil society etc.”

What this has led to is a better response to IDP citizen needs, capacity building and informing the municipality to increase resources needed to be allocated for displacement matters, institutional policies and frameworks have been developed to inform decision making and they have worked towards inclusivity within the policymaking process.

“By and large, the country is heading in the right direction. Both the Federal Government and the local governments have understood what is needed in terms of structures.  They understand the urgency needed especially with IDP issues… internally and abroad.  They are also aware that the issue of security must be addressed.  Extremist elements and their actions can derail the process and political instability must be handled conclusively.”

Dr. Hodan Ali, Banadir Durable Solutions Unit Director

Projects at hand

Hodan’s unit focuses on the basic policies, structures and procedures needed. So they did a SWOT analysis of the municipality. To see where it was and where it needed to go so that they could put in place supporting mechanisms: Laws, regulations, advocacy, sensitization and communicating the new narrative and policies. It took about one and a half years to come up with the right structures and get everything behind the unit.

On the ground, the municipality has started working on the first social housing since the collapse of the government in 1991. The project is being done in partnership with the EU. It is a low-cost housing of 300 units (households) potential to house about 1, 600 people.

It should have commercial space, communal area and urban agriculture space. This is like subsidized housing. The families pay minimal rent per month (the property belongs to the local government) and the head of the family will be given an opportunity for employment as the kids are given access to education and health through upgraded facilities that offer these services nearby.

Changing the narrative

The Unit works towards ensuring that IDPs and urban poor (Mogadishu) have an environment where sections of the public can move from humanitarian-based living to independent, reasonable and meaningful living.

On the subject of changing the narrative, Hodan believes that the city has what it takes to rewrite and reorganize the lives of its displaced communities. She explains, “We believe that Mogadishu has enough opportunities and resources for the people in it to move from a humanitarian caseload to a developing case caseload. There is no reason why resources intended for Mogadishu should be humanitarian. These resources should be towards building the basic foundations of communities. This is about giving families opportunities. Move them from urban poor to independent citizens who are integrated well into the society that they live in.”

How does she place what they have been doing in the bigger picture of the development progress of Somalia?

She says that everything is on track, and is upbeat about the future. Saying that even though the progress might be slow, the Durable Solutions Unit and the municipality are off to a good start.

“By and large, the country is heading in the right direction. Both the Federal Government and the local governments have understood what is needed in terms of structures.  They understand the urgency needed especially with IDP issues… internally and abroad.  They are also aware that the issue of security must be addressed.  Extremist elements and their actions can derail the process and political instability must be handled conclusively.”

Overall, she is certain of the steps taken so far; national policies and laws are being put in place to assist and take care of IDPs and other humanitarian needs, yet she is still wary of the future. Her final word is that a lot has been accomplished but much more needs to be done in order to realize an inclusive and meaningful Somalia.

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