Many Somali refugee families returning home after years in refugee camps lack basic items, like blankets and school supplies.
In the summer of 2017, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) shipped 10,120 school kits and 2,930 comforters to Somalia, which were distributed by Lutheran World Federation (LWF), an MCC partner, at five schools in Kismayo, the capital of Jubaland State.
This distribution is a response to the increased population in the city. According to Anne Wangari, the Africa Emergency Hub Coordinator for LWF who is overseeing the distribution in Kismayo, waves of Somali refugees fled to neighbouring Kenya over the last 25 years in response to political instability, drought and violence at the hands of the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab.
However, the Kenyan government claimed some al-Shabaab militants hid in refugee camps on the border and carried out attacks in Kenya, prompting the government to shut down one of the camps.
Around 2012, the Jubaland regional government reestablished control over Kismayo, one of Somalia’s largest cities and an important Indian Ocean port. Especially over the last two years, thousands of refugees have been able to return home as access to basic services, including education, improves.
But many returnees and internally displaced people (IDP) lack the everyday necessities, including school supplies. Some children’s families never left Kismayo but also face poverty and marginalization.
“Some kids were coming to school with nothing,” Wangari says. “They’re coming to school to learn to read and write and practice drawing. When a child has nothing to draw with and nothing to write on, that child cannot learn,” she says.
That’s why MCC’s shipment is so important, she says.
In addition to providing school kits, LWF is using MCC comforters to encourage parents to be active in their children’s education.
“When we bring them together in the school, we talk to them about the role of parents in education. How do they ensure that a child is able to learn? How can they support the teacher in their work? How do they support the children in their work? Before they go home we give them a blanket to show them how important it is for them to support the children’s education,” Wangari says.
In addition to the school kits and comforters, LWF also pays five teachers’ salaries and provides one hot meal per day and clean water to students in five public schools. LWF is also addressing sanitation issues in the schools by providing hand wash stations.
As access to education improves, Wangari says LWF hopes to improve the quality of education in Kismayo with MCC’s help.
Fatumo, left, and Sahro, right, (last names are not used for security reasons) are just a few of the children who received MCC school kits at a distribution in Kismayo, Somalia. Lutheran World Federation, an MCC partner, provided the school kits to displaced and refugee children who are returning home to Somalia. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)
Students at Wamo Primary School in Kismayo, Somolia, show school supplies they received as part of MCC school kits distributed by Lutheran World Federation. The students are returning home to Somalia with their families as the Daadab camp in Kenya is being closed. (Photo courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)