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Key UN Agency Calls for Somalia Funding

FILE: IOM delivers emergency and essential health services to Bulla Gaduud and Gobweyn, areas recently liberated by the government in Lower Juba region of south-eastern Somalia. Taken November 4, 2018

As Somalia security forces continue to dislodge al-Shabab from new territories in the central regions, the United Nations agency running al-Shabab defector rehabilitation centers says it has not received funding to continue its work

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) which implements donor support for the centers in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayo said it does not have funding for operations in 2023.

“At the moment, IOM has no funding to continue to support the program,” IOM Somalia Chief of Mission Frantz Celestin told VOA Somali.

“If we don’t get the funding between now and 31st December, we will not be in a position to continue to support the program,” Celestin said in a written response.

The agency has recently informed Somali authorities that funding for the multi-million-dollar project could stop in the New Year unless the Somali government and donors reach a deal on the future operations of the program.

The move is not a permanent cessation, but a pause until there is an agreement with the Government on a way forward, he emphasized

Celestin says additional funding is contingent upon an agreement between the donors and the Somali Government.

“As has been the case since 2012, the donors are committed to supporting the program, but they would like to see a path to Government ownership of the program. I believe this is what’s under discussion.”

The project’s main donors are the United Kingdom and Germany.

Known as the National Program for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants, the defector project started more than a decade ago, and has helped rehabilitate and reintegrate thousands of al-Shabab defectors. More than 450 defectors are currently benefiting from the program according to a source familiar with the center.

UK and German embassies said they intend to continue the financial support for the program in 2023 to 2024 but indicated they want to see Somali government take over the project.

“To ensure it is sustainable in the long term, ownership will be transitioned to the Government of Somalia,” the Spokesperson said.

Former Minister of Internal Security Abdullahi Mohamed Nor who handed over the post in August says the program is particularly important during this period because of the ongoing operations against al-Shabab.

“At this time more centers need to be opened and their capacity increased,” Nor said.

He said the centers need to offer psychological and counselling support to the defectors who he said are “a hundred percent traumatized” because of the violence.

“In Mogadishu for instance, there is always one hundred people in the center, at a minimum,” he said.

Defectors spend up to 1 year in the centers before they are reintegrated into the community.

Nor said thousands have graduated from the program and left the centers to reintegrate.