Osman Abdullahi, a father of six, was delighted to move his family out of their flimsy hut made of sticks and cloth in a camp near the Somaliland port city of Berbera into a new two-bedroom house with a kitchen and a toilet.

“Life was very hard. My family lived in a makeshift shelter made from tree branches and grass that I collected from outside, leaving us at the mercy of strong winds,” Osman said.

Osman’s family, migrants from rural Las Id, around 80 kilometres away, moved into Jaamo Laaye IDP camp in Berbera in 2017, after their entire herd of 250 goats died in the drought.

They are among 300 families from Jaamo Laaye and a neighbouring camp, Barwako, who have been resettled on land just to the east of Berbera and given permanent houses to live in.

The housing initiative was launched in March by the Berbera local authority in a neighbourhood called ‘Magaalo ad,’ with financial support from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and NGO, SOS Children’s Village. Food aid distributed by these agencies to the camps stopped in 2020, adding to the challenges facing the IDPs.

The new settlement area provides water and toilets that were lacking in Jaamo Laaye and Barwako camps.

Osman works as a porter in Berbera port earning eight dollars a day, which he says is enough for his family. He pays nine dollars in school fees a month for three of his children at primary school.

Renewed hopes

Hawo Abdirahman, a mother of four, said she and her four children lived in terrible conditions in the IDP camp from 2018, when she arrived in Berbera. Her husband divorced and left her to take sole care of the children, after their herd of 50 goats died in the drought.

Hawo said being able to settle in a permanent house on her own plot of land had renewed her hope in life.

“I am not in the same place I was before; I feel now my children are in a safe place. I always used to worry a lot about their safety, and whenever it rained we had no decent roof over us, so my children used to suffer. I had no one to help me. But today I have a good place to live, so whether it rains or not it will not worry me,” she said.

The social affairs officer at Berbera local authority, Abdi Mohamud Waqandh, told Radio Ergo that the decision to build new houses for the displaced people was intended to help the to integrate into the local community.

“They were poor, without proper shelters, and they were a burden to the locals, so the local government decided to create a decent life for these people and build them houses,” he said.