• Laëtitia Romain | Media and Communications Officer, IOM Djibouti

“We were a group of eighteen young men when we left Ethiopia, with the same wish to find work in the Arabian Peninsula to support our families. By the end of the journey, there were only three of us left. When we reached Yemen, we discovered that we had entered a country at war. I had no idea before that. Fourteen of us perished because of the conflict, prompting our return to Djibouti out of fear. I have seen friends of mine dying right in front of me. On the way back, we would spend three, four days without eating anything. One of my friends who survived the war ultimately succumbed to thirst.” Ahmed Nour, 27 years old, puts on a smile for the photo despite difficult memories he shares.

Ahmed Nour, an Ethiopian migrant who reached Yemen and came back to Djibouti. IOM Djibouti 2024/ Laëtitia Romain

Moments before telling his story, the young man was queuing in line with other migrants outside the IOM sub-office in Tadjourah, on the Djiboutian coast. Earlier that day, he had learned through IOM outreach officers about a distribution of dignity kits with essential items for migrants transiting or stranded in the so-called “White City”, one of Djibouti’s oldest towns.

Reflecting the latest breakdown of the Eastern Route figures (70% men, 24% women and 6% children in February 2024), a majority of men but also women and children showed up that day. In groups of ten, they were invited to collect a linen bag containing a variety of items, from soap and shampoo to underwear and shoes. These non-food items (NFI) kits are adapted to different profiles, with tailor-made items for seven categories, according to one’s sex and age (men, women, boys, girls, young boys, young girls, and babies). For example, women and girls’ kits include menstrual hygiene items. This direct assistance aims to meet vulnerable migrants’ immediate needs and uphold their sense of dignity.

People queuing outside the IOM sub-office in Tadjourah, Djibouti, while waiting their turn during a dignity kit distribution. IOM Djibouti 2024/ Laëtitia Romain

Ahmed Nour patiently waited for his turn, holding the ticket given by an IOM staff member between his fingers, while the children first and then the women received their kits. When he reached the registry desk, he provided his name and age, signing the list before receiving his kit. He then joined the rest of the group in verifying that the items in their bags matched the contents of the dignity kit, as shown on a poster.

Ensuring that the information provided is both effective and culturally appropriate is one of the commitments that IOM Djibouti has made to enhance the mainstreaming of accountability to affected communities in its operations. Initiatives such as the production of posters or other communication tools aim to increase the access of the affected population to relevant information on the distribution processes and to promote transparency.

IOM’s dignity kits distributions are following procedures ensuring accountability to the affected population. IOM Djibouti 2024/ Laëtitia Romain

“Everything is useful, but the item I needed the most was a shirt.” The provision of clothing and hygiene items can have a profound influence on people's perception of themselves, and on the surrounding community's perception of them. This is particularly true for people who own few personal belongings, sometimes only the clothes they wear.

Ahmed Nour opening the dignity kit he just received at the IOM Sub-Office in Tadjourah, Djibouti. IOM Djibouti 2024/ Laëtitia Romain

The items donated in the kits have a positive impact on the living conditions and general well-being of the people who receive them. In addition, the distribution of sanitary items plays a crucial role in preventing disease and infection, thus promoting the good health of the people targeted and of the communities they exchange with.

“I’m trying to find some work here; I have had a few opportunities as a daily worker.” continues Ahmed Nour.  The population of Djibouti often procures free assistance to migrants in transit or stranded. Providing them with essential items helps to reduce pressure on the resources of the host community, fostering an inclusive and harmonious environment that promotes solidarity and understanding between the two communities.

IOM dignity kits have a positive impact on the living conditions and general well-being of the people who receive them. IOM Djibouti 2024/ Laëtitia Romain

Thanks to the much-needed fund of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (Ksrelief), IOM Djibouti has been able to help thousands of people like Ahmed Nour, through monthly distributions of dignity kits across Djibouti (Ali Sabieh, Dikhil, Obock and Tadjourah regions), in close collaboration with local authorities. Within a year, over 10,000 kits have been handed over to vulnerable members of host and migrant communities along this part of the Eastern Route.

Such distributions are part of IOM's wider humanitarian response in Djibouti, aimed at addressing the needs of vulnerable people, within the framework of the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP). The MRP is an inter-agency strategy developed by IOM in coordination with regional and national non-governmental and intergovernmental partners, providing an essential strategic framework to ensure a whole-of-society approach to meeting the needs of vulnerable migrants and host communities in countries along the Eastern route to Yemen and South Africa.

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being