International Rescue Committee (IRC)

In Somalia, a hero’s work

A farmer forced to flee his home supports his family and fellow Somalis by devoting himself to a humble but essential job—cleaning a camp for displaced persons 

GALKAYO, Somalia - When the threat of being forced to fight for a feared Somali militant group became a reality, 44-year-old Hassan Omar Ibrahim and his wife, Hamara, decided he should flee their farm in southern Somalia. Hassan trekked 435 miles to Galkayo, a city in the center of the country.
 
He traveled alone because he couldn’t afford to take his family. Indeed, he barely made it by himself. “I couldn’t get the money for transport so I walked for five days from my home in Lower Shabelle to Mahadey District in Middle Shabelle,” he recalls. From there he hopped on a truck that took him to Hiran in south-central Somalia, where he discovered that the militants were “recruiting” as well. Hassan boarded another truck that was transporting livestock to the Arabian Gulf. “I became a worker for the journey,” he says. “I told them I just want something to eat and I will help.”
 
Hassan with his donkey and cart

A farmer from southern Somalia, Hassan fled to Carafat to avoid being forced to fight by a Somali militant group.

Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC

When Hassan arrived in Galkayo, he went to Carafat, a camp for people displaced by drought, famine and conflict. He found work as a laborer. “I joined a group of men that collected stones for building,” he says. “I did this for three years.” He was paid the equivalent of $7 U.S. per day but was able to work just three days a week. 
 
Today Hassan collects garbage from Carafat camp three days a week—a crucial role. In the two months since he started, he already has made a difference. With the help of a donkey and cart, he carries the garbage to the outskirts of camp and burns it. The donkey and cart, part of a program to create jobs and keep the camp clean, was the brainchild of IRC’s Water, Sanitation and Health team.
 
“Our first aim was to clear the camps of waste,” says Mohamed Gorod, who oversees IRC water and sanitation programs in Galkayo. “After a few tries using different methods, we came up with this donkey cart solution. Hassan had experience using a donkey and cart. The IRC promised that if the donkey became ill we would treat it because we have veterinarians on staff.” 

Hassan and his sone with the donkey cart

With the help of a donkey and cart, Hassan collects garbage in the camp three days a week.

Photo: Idil Ibrahim/IRC 

Hassan cannot hide his joy: He feels privileged to be doing this job. “Cleaning the area is very important and it is a religious duty for Muslims to keep the area clean because it will improve our health,” he says. “This has been an unexpected opportunity.” Although he works only three days in the camp, he keeps busy the entire week. “I start my day at six, have my breakfast and feed the donkey,” Hassan explains. “After I pray, I start work at seven. When I’m not in the camp I transport materials like cement or timber, and I also collect garbage from the communities in Galkayo town. Finally, I help people move house.” 

Hassan’s life has improved beyond recognition. He now makes the equivalent of $15 U.S. a day and supports not only his family but also provides food to the poorest in the camps. Hamara is overjoyed as well.  “My wife is happy because she feels I have continuous work and this kind of work is very marketable in Galkayo,” he says. Their 15-year-old son, Abdirahman, lives with them and their 2-year-old daughter, Mariam, who was born in the camp. Hassan sends money home to support three other children cared for by their grandmother. 
 
Abdirahman helps his dad on Fridays with the donkey cart. “I am happy my dad has this job because I have been able to get new clothes,” he says. He would like to be a doctor when he grows up. 
 
Hassan with his Abdirahman, Mariam and the donkey

Hassan with Abdirahman, 15, and Mariam, 2, at Carafat camp. His three other children live with their grandmother.

Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC

Cleanliness in a settlement like Carafat is vital to prevent disease and promote well-being. One donkey cart, however, is not enough for a camp that must accommodate some 2,500 displaced people. “We need three to four donkey carts in each of the ten camps in Galkayo,” says Gorod. “That would mean that all seven days the camps would be clean because garbage occurs on a daily basis.” 

For now, Hassan and his donkey cart will have to do. “I want to bring my other children here and stay until my home is peaceful,” he says. “I like farming, but I know that my gardens will be overtaken by militants if I were to go home.”
 

We Can Be Heroes

A year ago, the IRC and DC Entertainment joined forces to combat the effects of a devastating drought in East Africa through the We Can Be Heroes campaign. Since then, we have been inspired by the remarkable resilience of those we serve and the enormous generosity of our supporters. Learn more.>>
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Comments

i like life is somali i know

i like life is somali i know it a pour country but still is home i can wait to come back there i work also try to help the young kids with food water the basic staff we take for grantide somali best country

Wow. Very Interesting success

Wow. Very Interesting success

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