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IOM empowers women business owners in Somalia to recover from COVID-19 Impact

 

Mogadishu – The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives—and economies—across continents, sparing neither high-income countries, nor the low-income ones whose citizens often seek jobs abroad to escape economic distress. Few countries are as migration-dependent as Somalia. And few have been treated as harshly by the global downturn.

Somalia’s informal economy—based largely on remittances, imports, and agriculture—has been heavily impacted by COVID-19. It is estimated that 40 per cent of households in Somalia are dependent on remittances, and pandemic-related travel restrictions have cut remittance flows sharply.

An IOM study on remittances this past August reported Somalia’s Department of Diaspora Affairs had noted a decline in remittances based on reports received and consultations held with a number of mobile transfer operators indicating a sharp decline. IOM research indicated a decrease of remittances by over 60 per cent.

Woman-owned businesses have been especially hard-hit, with disruptions in supply chains and reductions of cashflow. The flow of customers also has been disrupted as curfews and social distancing put many customers off.

A recent study, conducted in Mogadishu by IOM and the local research firm Raagsan Consulting, found that, of 320 women-led businesses surveyed, over 300 reported reduced revenue and sales. About half reported having to put their operation on hold with about the same number saying they faced difficulty paying back loans or rent. Almost 60 per cent said they had been forced to shut down during the pandemic, with about one third of that group closing permanently.

READ  Challenging return as the preferred solution to internal displacement

Nimco Yusuf, 45, is one businesswoman feeling the pain. She started her kitchen utensils business in Mogadishu ten years ago hoping to address new market demand after years of conflict. She started by offering cooking utensils.

“When I started my business, Somalia was coming out of many years of conflict,” she explained. “Families started returning, and there was a need to restart their homes, including kitchen items.”

By the start of 2020, Nimco was doing well enough to support 15 children. She was even able to hire outside help, putting two full-time employees to work in her shop.

Then, in March, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Somalia. A government-imposed curfew and other mobility measures impacted her business, along with thousands of others.  “I experienced a 62 per cent decrease in sales and a shortage of supplies.” she said.

Today, Nimco is one of 185 Somali women being supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to deal with the financial impact that the COVID-19 had on their businesses.

IOM Somalia, with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), began partnering with Somalia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) to support women-led micro and small enterprises (MSEs) impacted by COVID-19 in Mogadishu.

READ  UNHCR seeks assistance for thousands of Ethiopians fleeing Tigray region

Cash assistance is the key component, with grants ranging from USD 650 to USD 2,000, depending on the size of the business and its needs. Cash grants are designed to help these entrepreneurs restock supplies and may address other needs, such as paying rent, electricity, or loans.

IOM estimates that the grants to 185 beneficiaries will directly improve the lives of 1,122 family members. The financial stimulus that supports these small businesses will also positively impact the local economy.

The women also receive five days of training in business continuity, including basic financial literacy. Most of the women receiving this support present high vulnerabilities, including having large numbers of dependents, living in rented places or informal settlements, being displaced, having members of the family with disabilities, being unable to write or read, or having children at risk of child labor.

The support of IOM and the national government comes at a crucial time. With remittance flows declining since the start of the pandemic, many families have been pushed deeper into poverty. This risks reversing decades of progress on development and poverty alleviation.

“Addressing the impact of COVID-19 on Somalia’s economy is imperative to reduce push factors for migration that can put at further risk individuals in vulnerable situations, especially women and children,” says Richard Danziger, IOM Somalia’s Chief of Mission.

READ  IOM provides over 1,300 migrants with emergency shelter and assistance on the Canary Islands

This kind of support in Somalia addresses not only the most urgent needs of the women, but also empowers them to be agents of change in their communities and an inspiration for future generations.

“Please continue to support us, not with money, but with skills training,” said Nimco.

This activity is possible thanks to the generous funding of the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO).

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  ‘How my husband and I ship young girls to Italy for prostitution’

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Ailing migrant dies as IOM supports 13 stranded travellers along Cote d’Ivoire –Ghana border

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  IOM provides over 1,300 migrants with emergency shelter and assistance on the Canary Islands

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Refugees Commission begins verification of IDPs in Nigeria

 

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