NAIROBI, 7 September 2010 (IRIN) - Authorities in Galkayo, in Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, are offering internally displaced persons (IDPs) skills training in a bid to integrate them into the community, officials said.
The move comes nearly a year after many IDPs and their businesses were targeted by mobs for suspected involvement in explosions in the town.
"We host a very large number of displaced people and we want them to integrate with the host community," Bashir Mohamed Mire, the deputy governor, who launched the initiative, said. "This training will equip them with skills to make a living and become part of the community."
Mire said that once the IDPs acquired skills, they would not only support themselves but also contribute to the local economy.
"Once they are established, they will interact with the people and become part of the community," he said.
The training is also expected to reduce criminal activities among the young. "Instead of engaging in illegal or idle activities, like chewing khat, they can learn skills that will be beneficial to them and the community," Mire added.
Mire said he was grateful to the Gothenburg Initiative (GI), a Swedish NGO, which was implementing the training through the Galkayo Vocational Training Centre (GVTC). The participants take their courses, run by GI, at the centre.
Abdulqadir Aden, GI's Puntland field manager, told IRIN it had trained about 240 IDPs this year, 60 percent of whom were women.
Aden said participants received three to six months' training in various fields, including mechanics, welding, carpentry and electrical engineering for men, and tailoring, beauty therapy and interior design for women.
In the past 20 years of civil strife in south-central Somalia, thousands of IDPs fleeing the violence have settled in many parts of Puntland. There are more than 40,000 displaced persons in Galkayo, according to the UN.
Aden said various agencies were funding the programme. "We have the DRC [Danish Refugee Council], UNESCO [the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], Save the Children, Diakonia, and EDC [Education Development Centre].
Aden said the training was open to both IDPs and the host community. "Sometimes the difference between the two is marginal. There are locals who are as poor as or even worse off than the IDPs," he said.
Muhyadiin Khalif, an IDP from the town of Jowhar, is one of the lucky ones selected for the programme. "I work with a truck that brings stones for buildings. Some days there is no need for stones so I don't get work," he told IRIN.
Khalif is now training to be a mechanic. "This will give me a better chance to take care of my family,” said the father of five.
"We have been promised tools, so as soon as I complete the course, I want to start my own business."
Deputy governor Mire called on other aid agencies to help deal with the growing problem of displacement in the area.
"Programmes like this help not only the IDPs but also the locals. It is like teaching someone how to fish instead of giving him fish every day," he said.