Creating livelihood opportunities and solidarity in a Dijbouti refugee settlement and adjacent community

Explaining Infrastructure Projects

Explaining infrastructure projects to the coordination committee

In an effort to promote economic and social development, IGAD’s Regional Migration Fund launches rapid-cycle projects promoting entrepreneurship and vocational training

June 22, 2021

“Sport can be a great driver of gender equality and empowering women and men. By teaching the value of teamwork, self-reliance and resilience, we can encourage new mindsets and give renewed strength to the community and its effort to create a bright future for the youth. Sport can provide girls with social connections and a refuge from violence in their homes and communities. It also helps them to understand their bodies and build confidence in their ability to speak up, particularly during adolescence, when the pressure to conform to traditionally feminine stereotypes leads many girls to abandon education and sport entirely.”

Fathia Bouraleh, IGAD Liaison Officer

In 2008, Fathia “Gazelle” Bouraleh represented Djibouti in the Beijing Summer Olympics in the 100 m sprint. Today, the 33-year-old humanitarian and development aid worker can be found in Ali Sabieh, the second largest urban area in her native country, where she is still doing great things, this time as a Liaison Officer for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

About 25 km from the town, lies the settlement of Ali Addeh, home to 15,000 refugees and a host population of 2000. Working closely with a local coordination committee, Fathia’s job is to implement IGAD activities that create economic opportunities, improve living conditions, and promote social cohesion among the high number of displaced people in the region, as well as locals affected by their arrival.

"As a Djiboutian, I am moved by empowering displaced refugees and host community women to improve their lives. I learn from them and am inspired to unite people through community mobilisation and social cohesion to use the little resources available to create independence, hope and opportunity," Fathia explains. "This is why I do what I do. I have the hope that my work will help change women and girls’ future for the better."

Fathia Bouraleh on the left. On the right, women from the refugee settlement of Ali Addeh

Creating opportunities while building community 

Covering seven countries with a total population of more than 230 million people, IGAD oversees one of the world’s largest refugee-producing and hosting areas, with up to 11 million displaced persons. Most of the displacement in the region is protracted, lasting ten years on average, with refugees mainly drawn from Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan.

In response to the challenges caused by migration, with support from the German Government through the KfW development bank, IGAD established the Regional Migration Fund (RMF) in 2019. A 3-year initiative, the Fund aims to create economic opportunities, improve living conditions, and promote social cohesion among refugees, migrants and host communities by promoting inclusive, participatory investment planning, and implementation. NIRAS’s role is to operate the RMF’s Fund Management Unit, which is responsible for the setup, operation, and management of the fund, the preparation and selection of specific interventions, and the support to individual measures at project level.

In 1983 and 1984, six countries in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda) took action through the UN to establish an intergovernmental body to collectively combat drought and desertification in the region. In January 1986, the agreement was signed to officially launch IGAD with headquarters in Djibouti. The State of Eritrea became the seventh member after attaining independence in 1993 and South Sudan joined in 2011.

Chalk Factory In Ali Sabieh. Supplies Whole Of Djibouti.
A chalf factory in Ali Sabieh that supplies all of Dijbouti

Rapid implementation, visible impacts

Ali Addeh was established 30 years ago, and resident livelihoods are mostly dependent on trade, with some livestock and horticultural activities. A majority of the asylum seekers are unemployed and forced to commute to the capital, Djibouti Ville, where they mainly work in the service and trade sectors. Ali Addeh and Ali Sabieh were selected for target interventions under the RMF investment window 2, which works to promote economic and social development in protracted refugee settlements and adjacent communities to improve livelihoods.

The Fund Management Unit is rolling out two kinds of initiatives: rapid-cycle projects – which mainly use local resources, are implemented rapidly and have visible impacts – and catalytic infrastructure projects, chosen for their wide impacts and synergies between investments. Using refugee rights under the new Refugee Law and Decree of 2017, rapid cycle projects aim to increase access to market-oriented entrepreneurship and vocational training with micro-credit loans for business investment.

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Together with a local coordination committee - comprised of refugees and hosts - Fathia is supervising and monitoring investments and planning additional projects. She has spent more than seven years working in the region and is deeply rooted in the communities there. She is particularly experienced in working with youth and to this days still coaches girls to compete at a running club in Dijbouti. The types of activities Fathia works with include undertaking surveys among refugee and host youth communities to assess their knowledge of their rights under the Refugee Law and Decree and identify the practical difficulties they face in accessing these rights. Based on the findings, recommendations are made on how to ensure that displaced people and youth from host communities gain greater access to economic and social services, for example through awareness-raising campaigns with community meetings and talk shows in both Ali-Addeh and Ali Sabieh.

“In Fathia, we have an outstanding Liaison Officer. She is recognised, warmly welcomed and appreciated by the humblest of beneficiaries on the ground to people who occupy the highest positions of power in the country, yet remains humble,” says one of her colleagues.

Learn more about NIRAS’ work on the RMF

Jane Bech Larsen

Jane Bech Larsen

Business Development Director Economic Development

København, Denmark

+45 6039 4431