Civic Support for Ethiopian Refugees in Galkayo

Refugees from Ethiopia have headed for neighboring Somalia since the 1970s, with some families settling long before the ongoing Somali civil conflict began. Given their long stay, humanitarian efforts focus on providing stable job opportunities and consistent public services for this population.

Chief among these services are health care and education. In 2014, security concerns forced a major health care organization to withdraw from Somalia, leaving conflict-affected areas such as Galkayo largely without medical attention. In 2015, Relief International stepped in to fill the void.

Galkayo is the capital of Somalia’s north-central Mudug region. Lying less than 150 km/100 miles from the Somalia-Ethiopia border, the city has one of the largest refugee populations in the country. In January 2015, Relief International began a year-long program in Galkayo that covered the costs of primary care treatment for 240 patients. In cases that required advanced or long-term treatment, RI provided transportation to specialized clinics. The program was funded by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Like health care, education has also fallen behind in many of these communities. Because public and private schools charge a fee, fewer than 22 percent of school-aged children enroll in classes.

To get kids back in school, RI provided the funds for tuition, as well as uniforms, books and other learning materials for 70 children from the most vulnerable refugee families. Regular visits by RI staff ensured that children were attending and keeping up with classes. Performance was tracked to make sure that additional support was provided as needed. RI staff members met with the teachers and parents of struggling students to devise better ways to meet their needs. Recreational activities helped foster a supportive, positive learning environment.

To further support health and education interests, the program also targeted recovery. Marginalized groups such as single women, disabled and mentally ill individuals, and ethnic minorities received counseling. And, since most people worked as farmers in Ethiopia, Relief International offered skills training to help foster alternative job opportunities in the less agrarian environment of Galkayo.