World Refugee Day, 20 June 2017

Hunger and violence: supporting displaced persons in Africa

The majority of the world’s refugees do not attempt to reach Europe but are on the move within Africa – 16 million of them, according to UNHCR. Most are displaced in their own country, never crossing a national border. Those who seek refuge elsewhere from war, terror, poverty or a lack of prospects generally remain close to home – in a neighbouring country or in their own region. Eight of the world’s 10 largest refugee camps are in Africa. Host countries often face major challenges of their own. On behalf of the German Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) provided support to more than 1.5 million refugees and displaced people in Africa and assisted almost as many people in host communities, both urban and rural, between 2010 and 2015.

Crisis region: the Horn of Africa – Going back home

Many refugees would like to return to their home country eventually, and the host countries hope that this will ease the burden on their own scarce resources. But anyone fleeing war and violence will face challenging conditions on their return home: devastated infrastructure, lack of livelihood opportunities and a society torn apart by conflict. Reintegration must be approached cautiously and must include both short-term support and long-term prospects. The city of Kismayo in southern Somalia, to which 40,000 Somali refugees have returned and which is currently hosting more than 60,000 displaced persons, is a case in point. ‘In order to live together without conflict, all the groups within society must have the prospect of employment and adequate food,’ says GIZ Country Director Hendrik Linneweber. So in cooperation with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), GIZ runs courses to build artisanal skills, enabling people to train as carpenters, tailors or solar technicians, for example. Support is targeted primarily at young people and women who are their families’ sole providers. ‘From the start of 2015 to May 2017, we reached more than 10,000 people, at least half of them women,’ Hendrik Linneweber explains.

Central Africa: ending hunger, creating prospects

In Chad, terrorism is causing widespread panic and driving people out of their home villages. Even so, Chad has accepted 400,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. Food is in short supply, and climate change, droughts and heavy rainfall often destroy the paltry harvests. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU), GIZ is cooperating with the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR: ‘Chad has been welcoming and hosting thousands of refugees, many for over 13 years,’ says Francesco Bert of UNHCR in Chad. ‘We are joining forces to support refugees cultivating their own food.’ Around two dozen weirs have been constructed to distribute rainwater evenly across the slopes and prevent the soil from being washed away by floods. The water seeps into the ground, rehabilitating the arid land so that it can be used to grow crops. „We support concluding written agreements between refugees and local communities to safeguard the peaceful use of the new fields”, says GIZ expert Rico Langeheine “40,000 people – 40% of them refugees – are benefiting from these arrangements.” Between 2010 and 2015, GIZ helped to end hunger and undernourishment for more than four million people across Africa.

Armed conflict has raged in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for years, devastating the economy. In this region – home to displaced persons, returnees and locals – there is a lack of secure access to farmland, and tools and seed are in short supply. As a result of wars and conflicts, many young people have missed out on vocational education. So GIZ is working to fill the gap: the provision of seed, tools and training in efficient cultivation techniques has made it possible to increase yields by more than 20%. To date, more than 43,000 people have benefited from these measures, and 2,000 young Congolese have completed training in vegetable growing, artisanal skills and small business management, improving their prospects for the future.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations. We support the German Government in the fields of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education. Through our work we assist people and societies in shaping their own future and improving their living conditions.