(ERGO) – As part of an ongoing series on IDP camps in Somalia, Radio Ergo’s local reporter in Bossaso visited a camp where cash assistance is making a big difference to families using it to invest in business and education.
Halima Bile Ali is working hard to move her family out of a shabby displacement camp into the town of Bossaso, in Somalia’s north eastern Puntland region. She hopes that her fledgling small business, set up using cash grants, will give them a new future.
“Business is the only way to improve the living standards of the people,” said Halima, a mother of 11 children, who fled to Puntland from clashes in her native Hiran region in 2001.
“I am selling meat, vegetables and firewood. I started this business with the cash allowance I saved over two months.”
Halima’s family is among 180 families living in Mingis-B IDP camp in Bossaso, who have been receiving monthly cash assistance from the UN’s World Food programme (WFP).
Using the $85 she received in May and the $85 in June, Halima has invested in her business as well as her children’s education. She decided to tell her eldest son to stop going out to work as a shoe-shiner and enrolled him in school for the first time.
“I was advised by the neighbours to take the boy to school. Now I can at least get the daily bread for the family, so there is no need sending him to provide food for us,” she told Radio Ergo.
“I earn between $20 and $30 from the sales from my business. Previously, my first born used to cater for the school fees of the other children but now, with the support of my husband, I can afford to pay all the school fees for my children,” said Halima.
Halima’s husband works as a porter at Bossaso port. They pay $25 a month in school fees for their five school-age children.
Cash is proving to be popular among the recipients in this camp and seems to be having a positive impact on education enrolment among children.
According to the camp chairman, Abdirisack Abdi Allin, people can define their own priorities and use the cash to plan ahead.
“This money has given hope to many people in this camp,” Abdirisack said.
“There are families in the camp who have now stopped sending their children to do casual jobs and sent them to school. Before this the IDPs and their children used to struggle to get food, but now many more children are attending school.”
Mingis-B camp, with a population of 800 families, lacks most basic amenities. There is no well so people have to go to fetch water from nearby neighbourhoods. There is also no health facility.
Fartun Haji Ibrahim, another camp resident, has also invested her cash allowance in business. She sells firewood brought in by local businessmen from the remote surrounding areas by truck.
“Firewood sells very well. I sell a truckload each month and I earn enough income to support my family. This business has been of much help to my family,” said Fartun, a mother of six.
She immediately enrolled three of her children in a private school for the first time.
“The children have been going to school for the last two months. I was able to afford the school fees. I am optimistic that my business will grow so that I can become independent,” she said.
As for Halima, she has set her ambitions on building a better future outside the confines of the IDP camp.
“I want to become a resident of this town,” she told Radio Ergo. “When my business grows well, I will rent a house in the town. I hope this cash funding goes on for some time so that I expand the business,” she said.