United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi is asking the international community to support efforts being made by the Somali government to restore and rebuild the country which has been damaged by 28 years of conflict.
Grandi made the call after touring a new settlement in the southern port city of Kismayo, for former Somali refugees who have returned home.
The UN High Commissioner who highlighted the extent of physical damage caused the over two decade conflict, expressed content with the visible signs of restoration and economic activity in the streets including small businesses run by returning refugees.
There are currently over 2 million displaced Somalis both inside the country and in exile.
Filippo Grandi who earlier in the week visited the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya – home to thousands of Somali refugees – noted that Somalia still faced several challenges including insecurity and drought, in spite of the progress made over the years.
“I think a lot of progress has occurred, including what we see around here today, but much more is needed to make return sustainable and more importantly to make the country viable for its own people,” Grandi said.
The new settlement in Kismayo consists of housing for 300 families, a new hospital, a market and school.
“These boys and girls around me are the people that have grown up in a refugee camp,” Grandi said “and as I told them a few minutes ago, they are not refugees anymore.
“What better result for UNHCR to see young people go from being refugees to being people back in their country, contributing to their country.”
Most of the returning refugees have spent decades in exile waiting for signs of stability and the promise of education and jobs before giving up the safety of the refugee camps to return to their home country.
Whereas some 19,000 Somali refugees still living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp are said to be preparing for voluntary repatriation, most of them cite security concerns as reasons for staying in the refugee camp.
The militant Islamist group al-Shabab, still controls large parts of south-central Somalia as they continue their insurgency against the government.