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Ethiopia: Bamboo, Mud and New Friendships

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) - Thu, 15 Nov 2012 11:47 GMT
Author: Karoline R?sholm Eckroth
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The sounds of hammering, electric saw and Somali song fills the air in Kobe refugee camp in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, a few kilometres from the Somali border. It is just after lunchtime and the energy is high in the prefabrication workshop. The men, working in four different sections, assembling doors and windows, nailing trusses, cutting logs, and splitting bamboo, consist of Somali refugees and members of the host community and have all been hired by NRC. The local communities and the Somali refugees are involved in the whole process, from production of the different shelter parts to assembling the complete shelters.

Situated in the southeast of Ethiopia, Dolo Ado is the second largest refugee complex in the world after Dadaab, located in Kenya. The population recently passed the 170,000 mark, with new arrivals citing fear of harassment and forced recruitment by armed groups.   

35-year-old Ali Mohammed Hussein fled his home in Bakool, Somalia about 15 months ago. Ali, his wife and six children escaped the fighting between the al-Shabaab militia and the Transitional Government Forces and embarked on the long and perilous journey to Ethiopia. Here, in Dolo Ado, they have been assisted with one of NRCs environmentally friendly shelters produced from local materials; and at the same time Ali has secured a livelihood through producing new shelter parts that will benefit other vulnerable families. His work consists of splitting bamboo into four sticks that will be used for walls. “It is hard work,” Ali explains while wiping the sweat off his forehead, “but thanks to NRC and this job I am able to provide for my family and send my children to school”.

Working together

The prefabrication workshop is also a place where refugees and members of the host community come together and work side by side. This cooperation helps reduce potential tension and has even created new friendships.

“Before I started working here I did not know anyone besides people in the refugee camp. Now, I have found new friendships among the people I work with,” says Ali.

One of his colleagues from the host community is Mahad Hassan, who has worked for NRC making doors and windows for almost a year.

“It’s great that NRC is helping us from Dolo Ado too”, Mahad explains. “We also need to provide for our families and have a roof over our heads.”

 The community in Dolo Ado was hit hard by last year’s drought, throwing many families into poverty. People from this area are mainly pastoralists, who rely on their livestock to survive. Last year’s drought resulted in massive loss of livestock and many are still struggling to make ends meet. Consequently, NRC is providing shelter and livelihood assistance to the most vulnerable members of the host community.  

Using local material

The shelter type NRC is building in Dolo Ado is made from locally produced materials, benefitting the local and national economy. The walls are made from bamboo, one of Ethiopia´s main export products, which can be sourced not far from the camps. Bamboo grows quickly, making it a more environmental friendly material for construction than trees. The corrugated iron sheets used to make roofs, windows and doors are also produced in Ethiopia. Windows and doors are lockable and therefore provide beneficiaries with increased protection. So far in 2012, NRC, together with the refugees and host community, has constructed 3,015 of these shelters in Dolo Ado, benefitting more than 15,000 people.

NRC in Ethiopia

In order to respond to the humanitarian emergency and high influx of Somali refugees, NRC started operations in Ethiopia in July 2011 in close cooperation with the Ethiopian government, the UN and NGOs. NRC is currently assisting Eritrean refugees in the north, South Sudanese refugees in the east and Somali refugees in the South with shelter and education, benefitting more than 56,200 vulnerable people. NRC has secured funding from several sources to implement its projects in Ethiopia. The main donors include Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA), European Commission for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), The UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC), Humanitarian Relief Foundation (HRF), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM)

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