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Q & A: New initiatives for education in the Middle East and North Africa, including for refugees

Safaa El-Kogali's picture
 Egyptian Studio | Shutterstock.com

In Part II of her interview, Safaa El Tayeb El-Kogali, World Bank Practice Manager for Education, explains the initiatives being take to improve all levels of public education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and how important it is for children to be able to go to school, especially when their countries are affected by conflict.

Q & A: The importance of early childhood development in the Middle East and North Africa

Safaa El-Kogali's picture
 Egyptian Studio / Shutterstock.com

With the school year starting in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), millions of children are busily preparing to resume their studies. Some, caught in conflict, may not be able to go to school at all; others may be joining schools in countries neighboring their own. At peace or in war, throughout MENA more emphasis is being placed on early education and care. World Bank Practice Manager for Education, Safaa El Tayeb El-Kogali, co-authored a study on Early Childhood Development (ECD) in 2015, which found that, with a few exceptions, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was faring poorly.

Djibouti: Where forced displacement and migration meet

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Also available in: Español
In the context of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, this blog offers a field-level perspective from Djibouti on refugee and migrant movements. To prepare the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project, I visited the Ali Addeh refugee camp in Ali Sabieh region, which has been hosting predominantly Somali refugees for over two decades now, and Obock town, which is hosting Yemeni refugees in Merkazi refugee camp following the 2015 crisis, and Horn of Africa migrants in town.  
 
At Ali Addeh, we were confronted with two startling realities. The first was that consequent droughts had led to a depletion in the livestock ownership of local host pastoralist populations. This left them more vulnerable and impoverished than the refugees in the camps. A refugee woman, fetching fuel wood, emphasized that local host communities needed urgent development support and interventions.
The port of Obock, where the journey begins. (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)
The second reality was the near absence of the age group of 16-30 year olds, both boys/men and girls/women, in both the refugee camp and among host communities. Discussions revealed that this group saw limited economic opportunities in the local environment and had moved to the capital city pursuing low skilled informal jobs with low remuneration. When we tracked these youth, we found that many were stranded in "Balbala," a shanty town adjoining Djiboutiville, the capital city. Poor skills and lack of resources had left them more vulnerable than before. Some of course had made an onward journey to Obock to explore a journey to the Middle East and Europe.

A visit to Obock town in Djibouti brought to fore another stark reality but this time at the regional level of the Horn of Africa (HOA). In 2015 nearly 100,000 people – nationals from the different HOA countries and inhabitants of refugee camps in the region – had traversed the harsh Djiboutian terrain, where deaths by dehydration is common, to reach Obock. The town is considered the gateway to Middle Eastern countries with Yemen being the first and closest destination.

Consultations with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), local government staff, local community members and migrants themselves, revealed to us that despite the conflict in Yemen and the reverse movement of people into Djibouti, there wasn’t a significant drop in the number of youth attempting the onward journey. The only thing that had changed was the time it took for these migrants to leave the Djiboutian shores for Yemen – the increased cost of the boat ride across the Bab el Mandeb Strait linking the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula – had resulted in migrants working odd jobs in Obock to put together this additional money.

A visit to IOM’s Migration Response Center brought us face to face with a number of migrants. Some were undergoing medical treatment for injuries sustained and/or diseases contracted either during the journey to Djibouti, or
IOM Migration Response Center in Obock. (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)
while in Yemen and caught in the conflict. Over 3,300 African migrants have died since 2006, through unsuccessful efforts at crossing into Yemen across treacherous waters. Others were awaiting the processing of their papers to be sent back to countries and communities of their origin. There was essentially an assemblage of battered bodies and broken spirits.
 
For us, the situation brought into sharp focus the debate at the global, regional and national levels on delineating the causes and consequences of forced displacement versus voluntary and involuntary migration for the HOA. In Djibouti, there are various patterns of movement. Internal displacement of Djiboutians moving from rural to urban areas is attributed to droughts. Youth, both refugees and locals, are moving from underdeveloped regions of Djibouti to cities in search of better lives and economic opportunities. Movement of people especially youth from Djibouti and other HOA countries to the Middle East via Obock and Yemen is motivated by again, the search for a better life.

These movements within and through Djibouti, regardless of whether it is considered forced displacement as the result of conflict and persecution, or migration have more commonalities than differences in terms of costs – the hardships faced by those attempting these movements; the vulnerability to physical, sexual and psychological exploitation; trauma, disease and death; and shattered dreams and broken spirits. The commonalities also extend to solutions – investments in countries and regions to enhance opportunities for social and economic well-being for local communities, especially the youth, and efforts to enhance skills and competencies to enable safer and facilitated migration to mitigate the vulnerability.

The specific case of Djibouti, that is one among many others, therefore exemplifies the crossing of and even the merging of forced displacement and migration paths over time. The motivation for the refugees and migrants to move, and routes used are similar, with refugees from Ali Addeh becoming economic migrants by moving out of Djibouti, their first country of asylum.

These realities from the ground demand a pause and reflection on what sustainable and durable solutions can be proposed, as we work to strengthen collaboration between development partners, humanitarian agencies, country governments and regional organizations.

Arab world start-ups need partners, pathways, and talent to access markets

Jamil Wyne's picture
 dotshock | Shutterstock

Market access is critical to the growth of start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Start-ups seeking to scale up their operations need to think in terms of regional, rather than solely national, growth strategies from day one. However, maneuvering themselves into new countries is a complex process, and one that hinges on finding the pathways, people, and partners for market expansion.

Qat trade in Yemen: flourishing despite a falling economy

Ebrahim Al-Harazi's picture
 Oleg Znamenskiy l Shutterstock.com

It's been fifteen months since war started in Yemen and when I look at the painful reality that more than 21 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and more than half the population faces severe food insecurity - besides the millions out of work and countless more displaced - I wonder how it can be that the demand for Qat remains so high. 

Adding a legal dimension to multidimensional poverty in the Arab world and beyond

Paul Prettitore's picture

Alexandria, Egypt - Emad Abdel Hady

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Policy Program and the Center on Children and Families at Brookings released a study on multidimensional poverty and race in America. The study shows why it’s important to look at poverty through the dimensions of low household income, limited education, lack of health insurance, concentrated spatial poverty, and unemployment, and why we should consider ways to de-cluster and reduce the links between them.

The Arab world could be a DECIDING FACTOR in the fight against CLIMATE CHANGE

Martin Heger's picture


55 is the magic number. Sure - 175 parties (174 countries plus the European Union) signed the Paris Agreement in April in New York City earlier this year. But this alone is not enough. It matters not only how many countries signed the document, but also how many countries ultimately join the Paris Agreement by ratifying it.

More say in public spending would help Yemenis when the war ends

Walid Al-Najar's picture
Al Hudaydah's main market, Yemen - Claudiovidri l Shutterstock.com

While waiting for peace negotiations in Kuwait to help end the year of conflict in Yemen after claiming thousands of mainly civilian lives, Yemenis are striving for security to be restored to get back to their normal lives. For a whole year of war—until now—and for four years of political unrest prior to it, people have been worn out by deteriorating living standards and the lack of basic services: food, medicine, fuel, and, above all, security.

Middle-class dynamics and the Arab Spring

Elena Ianchovichina's picture
Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt - Hang Dinh|Shutterstock.com

What do middle-class dynamics in the 2000s tell us about the Arab Spring events? In modern economies, the middle class not only bolsters demand for private goods and services, but also insists on good governance and public services, such as education, health, and infrastructure. Investments in these areas improve the capacity of the economy to grow not only more rapidly, but also sustainably and inclusively. Therefore, understanding how the middle class fares in the Arab world is of crucial importance.

Terrorism makes stability more important to Arab youth than democracy

Christine Petré's picture


Young Arabs express the same concern over the rise of the Islamic State (IS) as young people do elsewhere, the annual Arab Youth Survey reveals. For the second year in a row, the “rise of” IS militants is perceived as the main problem facing the region, with four in every five young people interviewed saying they were more concerned about it than other problems. Its public appeal may have also decreased slightly, findings in the survey suggest.

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