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Qoloji Refugee' Camp: A Stalemate Situation

Avatar: Mohammed Hassen
Mohammed HassenDecember 1, 2020
City: JigjigaSociety
Qoloji Refugee' Camp: A Stalemate Situation

“I lived here for 2 years and I have suffered too much. I don’t only pray to return to my former decent life but also for  the betterment of the camp.” says Fatuma Aden, a displaced woman in Qoloji Internally Displaced People (IDP's) Camp.

Located 65 km south of Jigjiga, Somali Region's capital city, the camp  hosts thousands of  ethnic Somalis who have fled mostly from Oromia Region, following violent ethnic clashes in recent years. 

The Camp currently hosts more than 80,000 internally displaced people. According to a study by UNHCR and Danish Refugee Council in 2018, access to services like food, shelter, water and health is at a very truncated  stage and it needs improvement. The study shows that the food that is being provided is not enough to feed one whole family for one month and there are usually delays. The IDPs believe that the change of the regional government and the weakness of the camp management was the main reason for the delay in food provision. Shelter is another problem, according to the study, most of the IDPs have a plastic tented shelter which can’t protect them from rain and sun and the newly displaced community have no shelter. 

There have been efforts by the Region and international NGOs such as UNHCR to create situations for the safe ways of returning refugees to their homes. But, according to the Regional authorities, there have been  no returnees so far or in other words ‘suitable conditions couldn't be arranged'.

Every person in Qoloji Camp has a heartbreaking story to tell of a life turned upside down. While residents of the Camp often go to bed hungry, plagued by communicable diseases, malnutrition, poor sanitation and water shortage, millions of funds that were allocated to improve the camp's infrastructure were diverted into the personal pockets of  powerful politicians in the Region.

Many authorities in the region claim that the budget abuses of the Camp peaked under the former regime's leadership.The Regional Government and its different concerned bureaus together with the Federal Government are working to help the situations of the displaced people in the Camp. A number of local NGOs and international ones including UNHCR and UNICEF are assisting to improve the well-being of these people to no avail.

The facilities the Camp owns are so poor in comparison to other similar camps in the country. Though efforts are done, the Camp has water shortages and poor sanitation and hygiene problems come as a result of it. Despite there being enough latrines, the water shortage makes it really hard to use them properly. The health post is very ill equipped and the camp doesn't have any source of electricity since its commencement in 2016.

Mohammed Hassen Farah is another elderly man from the Camp. He has been in the Camp for the past 3 years. He has strong feelings towards his situation “I have never lived like this, never.” With tears pouring from his eyes, he adds “I was a businessman. I had a hotel. My life was good, but now all is gone.”

The camp's inhabitants are still in a limbo about their fate to return to their once dignified life. They wish for a long lasting solution to regain what's lost and overcome the emotional trauma of being trapped in squalor camp with no future.

The Regional Disaster Prevention Bureau Head, Mr. Abdulahi Aden says that the Region is working to integrate the Camp's residents with the Region's population in different areas. He claims that a number of tasks are being handled to improve the infrastructural and management problems in the Camp. “The improvements will help the people in the Camp feel like they are at home” he says. According to him, the number of displaced people who joined the Camp in the beginning were so few but the number has increased significantly through time. “ The Region is working with different stakeholders to make the Camp a better place” he says. 

If humanitarian resources are managed effectively and the Camp residents are empowered to have a say in the design, implementation and monitoring of all interventions, conditions may rapidly improve for the best interest of everyone.

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A PIECE BYMohammed Hassen

journalism and communications graduate and an expert in communications affairs in the region and mobile journalist at Addis Zeybe.