Ministerial meeting reaffirms commitment to solving Somalia crisis

News Stories, 21 August 2014

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Somali refugees in north-east Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex. Kenya took part in the ministerial meeting.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, August 20 (UNHCR) Participants at a ministerial meeting co-chaired by UNHCR in Addis Ababa on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to find solutions for hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and called on the international community to help the Somali government in its efforts to restore peace and progress.

The commitment came in a communiqué released at the end of the meeting, attended by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and ministers of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen, which together host nearly 1 million Somali refugees. Another 1 million Somalis remain displaced within Somalia. Also present were the UN Special Representative on Somalia and representatives of the African Union; the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development; and the UN Economic Commission for Africa;

"We hereby endorse a renewed engagement for Somali refugees which binds us to act in solidarity to address the imperatives of this pressing problem. At the heart of these commitments are guiding principles which emphasize the importance of the Somali Federal Government's commitment in actions concerning Somali refugees, the imperative of continued support to host communities, the need to increase refugee participation in future actions and to create differentiated solutions for a diverse refugee population, the benefits of considering new alternatives for long-staying refugees, and the importance of engaging new actors in the search for solutions," the communiqué said.

"We undertake to work with national, regional and international partners in a coordinated manner to give effect to the renewed commitments and outcomes of relevant sub-regional and regional meetings," the participants stressed, before calling upon the international community, through the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees, "to commit to the renewed engagement and work together for a more meaningful life for Somali refugees."

Read the communiqué

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The Addis Ababa Commitment towards Somali refugees

The Addis Ababa Commitment, adopted recently by UNHCR and regional governments, is a major step forward in the search for sustainable solutions for the more than 1 million Somali refugees.

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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.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

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.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

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.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
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Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Somalia: Saving LivesPlay video

Somalia: Saving Lives

Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.