“Providing for my family makes me feel like a man again”The conflict in Yemen has seen close to 180,000 persons flee to neighboring countries in search of refuge since the conflict escalated in March 2015. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has been receiving and assisting new arrivals in Djibouti, Somalia and in Somaliland. In Djibouti, where over 19,000 Yemeni refugees have arrived, DRC has been able to assist the new arrivals through the help of refugee volunteers like Sami Mohamed.
50 year-old Sami Mohamed lives in Markazi refugee camp in Djibouti’s port town Obock. He is quite a busy and popular man going by what we observed when we caught up with him while he was going round attending to refugees in the expanse of rows of canvas tents in the scorching afternoon heat of Markazi camp. Temperatures here get as high as 46 degrees and in the afternoon and at night strong gusts of winds blow across the tents in the camp in which currently around 1,300 refugees residing here call home.
Sami arrived here alone in August 2015 having fled the heavy shelling and bombing that was taking place in his home town in Hodeidah governorate in Yemen.
“I had to make a painful decision leaving my family behind since I could not afford to pay the boat fare for all my family members from al Marka to Obock when the shelling and fighting became too intense. I was very sad. It broke my heart to have left them behind, but there was little that I could do,” narrates Sami.
The boat journey from al Marka to Obock took four days in the sea and Sami notes he had very little to eat along the journey but he persevered until they arrived in Obock. He only had a small bag that had a handful of clothes which he managed to flee with.
Able to bring family to safety
Sami has been working as a livelihoods volunteer for DRC for the last eight months and his job description involves helping DRC staff working in Markazi camp to identify potential refugees who can be assisted with conditional cash grant to start their own small businesses that will help them to be self-reliant. In addition, identifying refugees whom DRC can assist with seedlings and training on starting a kitchen garden.
“I was very happy when I received my July allowance from DRC. I used all of it to bring along my wife and children. Now we are a family again thanks to DRC,” says Sami who has five children – four daughters and one son. The daughters are aged 14, 12, 10 and one year old respectively while the son is seven years.
“This opportunity to work as a volunteer makes me very happy. Providing for my family makes me feel like a man again,” Sami says.
Prior to fleeing from Yemen, Sami was working as a public relations officer with an Indian oil company while his wife Batol Mohamed Ali was a housewife but had trained as a hair dresser and beautician.
Sami’s wife, who has also taken up assisting him with the volunteer work, is very excited with the work that her husband is doing for the refugees in the camp. When we visited her at their shelter in section III of the camp, she had this to say:
“I am thankful that my husband has at least this opportunity to provide for us despite the difficult situation here. This makes me have hope for our children.”
DRC currently has two refugee volunteers in Markazi camp who are the unsung heroes who daily assist in the work of providing protection assistance as well as livelihood activities being implemented in the camp for the refugees.