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Former Somali refugees raise funds in Canada to build pre-school in Dadaab

Telling the Human Story, 13 March 2014

© UNHCR/D.Mwancha
Somali children at the new pre-school in Dagahaley camp funded by Canadian NGO, Humankind International.

DADAAB, Kenya, March 13 (UNHCR) Six years ago, Muuxi Adam met two friends in a coffee shop in the Canadian city of Winnipeg to talk about ways they could help other Somalis stuck in refugee camps in Africa.

The three, all Somali but from different clans, started by setting up a non-governmental organization, Humankind International, to spread awareness about Somali refugees in neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, and to raise money for education projects for refugees.

In February, their initiative took concrete form with the opening of a pre-school in the Dagahaley camp, part of the world's largest refugee camp complex at Dadaab in north-east Kenya. "More than 400 children lined up to enrol in the school, but we could only take 140 for now," Muuxi told UNHCR at the recent opening ceremony. He added that half were from the camp and half from the host community.

The school has three teachers, two from the refugee community and one local Kenyan. CARE International, UNHCR's partner for primary education in Dagahaley, has connected the school to a regular water supply.

"This is one of my greatest moments in life," said Muuxi, who grew up and suffered in war-torn Somalia before becoming separated from his family and making his way in 2004 to Toronto in Canada, where he is now a citizen.

He first gained inspiration for an education project after tracking down and visiting his mother in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. While there, he met an eight-year-old refugee and asked him about school. He was shocked when the boy told him he could not go to school. That was the seed which was watered in the Winnipeg café with his fellow Somalis, who had both lived in Dadaab.

Muuxi, who is aged in his late 20s, said his NGO had spent US$35,000 on the Dadaab school, but he was confident of raising more funds through Humankind International. "Our target is to sponsor 120 refugees every year," he said, while adding: "What is important is that the school is now open to benefit the community."

Ahmed Warsame, the ethnic Somali head of UNHCR operations at Dadaab, said it was "great to witness the extraordinary efforts made by former refugees to help their communities to alleviate human suffering." Warsame, coincidentally also a Canadian citizen from Winnipeg, pledged UNHCR support for the school through the provision of equipment and learning materials.

The refugee agency supports other primary and secondary initiatives at Dadaab, which is home to some 350,000 registered refugees.

By Duke Mwancha in Dadaab, Kenya

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East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

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A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

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The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

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