Be A Champion - Change the Story

Adeso Goodwill Ambassador Barkhad Abdi Returns to Somalia

Amidst great need, Abdi finds hope and resilience and the vital role played by Somali diaspora overseas through remittances

Barkhad Abdi shot to fame for his Oscar-nominated performance in the movie Captain Phillips. but Abdi was far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood when he returned to Puntland, Somalia for the first time in 2015 since fleeing the war-torn nation at the age of seven.

Abdi’s visit to Somalia as a Goodwill Ambassador for Adeso was an opportunity for him to witness first-hand Somalia’s emerging stories of progress, hope and resilience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this trip for the past year, and I’m really glad we were able to make it happen,” said Abdi. “It was important for me to reconnect with the country I was born in, to witness what’s happened over the past 20 years, and to understand how I can best work with Adeso to be part of the change I’d like to see in Somalia.”

Resilience, Entrepreneurship and Hope 

We have been working in Somalia for over 24 years, where we have deep roots, as evidenced by our nine field offices and programs throughout the country - even in Somalia's most marginalised and hard-to-reach regions.

During the 2011-2012 famine we reached over half a million people through cash transfers, what we consider a more dignified and effective form of humanitarian aid, because it enables people to decide how their must immiediate needs should be met. We estimate that this form of assistance saved thousands of lives.

Our work in Somalia:

  • Restores rangelands and coastal ecosystems
  • Gives young people new livelihoods with job skills and small business grants
  • Provides vulnerable households with social safety nets; and
  • Provides seeds and farming inputs for small farmers.

After flying from Nairobi to Bosaso, Abdi traveled to rural and coastal villages in Puntland, where he met with women and men involved in some of Adeso’s projects.

“Based on what you hear on the news, I expected to see a shattered country,” Abdi recalls from his visit. “But what I saw instead was a place full of resilience, entrepreneurship, and hope. I met with young men who are learning how to become electricians so that they can help to rebuild their country, and with women who now have the skills to come together and open successful businesses.”

Abdi’s trip also included a visit to the Bosaso port and coastal village of Durduri, where he spoke with fishermen struggling in the face of rampant illegal fishing. Foreign fleets have been ravaging Somali waters for decades, with coastal communities suffering as a result.

Humanitarian Needs: Remittances Hanging by a Thread

With close to three quarters of a million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, Somalia faces major challenges. For many Somali families, the key to stability is provided by funds sent from relatives abroad, called remittances. Each year, Somalis abroad send approximately US$1.3 billion back to Somalia to help friends and relatives secure water, food, shelter, and medicine. This money also helps many Somalis to start businesses, pay off loans, and invest for the future

During his visit, Barkhad Abdi spoke with families who rely on remittances sent from loved ones overseas each month. But since his visit in January 2015, the principal bank facilitating money transfers from the United States to Somalia – accounting for up to 80 per cent of transfers between the countries – discontinued these services, with potentially devastating consequences for the people of Somalia.

Commenting on this recent development, Abdi said, “When I was in Somalia I didn’t just see conflict, drought, and hunger. I saw people building a better future for themselves. And part of the reason why they’ve been able to do so is because of the remittances they receive from overseas. Let’s not threaten that lifeline and risk reversing all the gains that are being made.”

Adeso, the Global Center for Cooperative Security, and Oxfam America, released a report this week entitled Hanging by a thread which documents the ongoing threats to remittances and provides possible solutions to ensure the flow of funds.

For pictures of Barkhad Abdi’s visit, click here.