• Kaousar Saad | Communications Assistant, IOM Djibouti

In July 2023, Djibouti saw a total of 21,573 migratory movements, with an average of 719 movements per day. Out of these movements, 4,621 were observed in the Obock region, which is located in the northern part of Djibouti.

This region is significant as it serves as a crossing point for many migrants who traverse the Gulf of Aden on their way to the Arabian Peninsula. An estimated 7,271 have been reported stranded in Djibouti in 2023, these migrants are unable to continue their journey often due to lack of resources. To support vulnerable and stranded migrants, the International Organization for Migration in Djibouti has set up a Migrant Response Center (MRC) in Obock, North of Djibouti, to assist migrants wishing to return home.

The Migration Response Center (MRC) not only provides accommodation, direct assistance, and protection services to beneficiaries but also offers various mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) activities. These activities are designed to provide psychological support to those in need and to improve their overall psychosocial well-being. 

Ali Moussa, in charge of setting up these activities, explained in detail : "These psychosocial activities are structured into four levels to respond in an adapted and integrated manner to the different psychosocial needs of migrants. The MRC organizes in particular community-based activities, such as socio-relational and cultural activities. These activities aim to strengthen social support, promote social cohesion, help solve problems collectively, reactivate community cultural resources, reconnect with cultural values, express emotions and relieve stress, among others."

Ali Moussa, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Officer at the Migration Response Centre (MRC) in Obock (Photo: Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023)

Oumari is a 20-year-old female migrant who left her home country with her husband a year and a half ago in search of better economic opportunities in the Arabian Peninsula. However, they faced violence and insecurity during their journey and ultimately decided to stay in Obock. 

She explained: “When I do these activities, I feel a very heavy weight lifted off my shoulders and at the end of each session, I feel light.”  

Oumari's self-esteem and abilities improved as a result of the MHPSS activities. The social support she received brought her comfort and helped to lessen the effects of being away from her family and the worries of everyday life. She learned to weave different products and would now like to master sewing better. 

Mohamed, who is a minor of 17 years old, left his home country 8 months ago to go to Saudi Arabia. He migrated to support his family economically during a difficult harvest period caused by the conflict in the country. Their farm was their only source of income, which is why he decided to leave in search of better opportunities. 

Mohamed went through extreme physiological and psychological distress as well as thirst, hunger and fatigue during his migration journey. 

He came to the Obock MRC 4 months ago, requesting assistance with voluntary return home. He seemed disappointed and felt guilty about his experience. Despite an improvement in his state of well-being over time, homesickness significantly affected him during his stay, and he found it difficult to sleep and experienced a lack of appetite. Mohamed shared that he is very involved in the informal education activities that take place daily at the MRC.  

“I am very interested in reading and drawings, they help me feel better”.  

The MHPSS activities seek to engage minors in cognitive tasks that divert their attention from difficult events, allowing them to experience positive emotions. By providing a safe environment for children to interact and share their experiences, these activities help them realize that they are not alone in their struggles. As Mohamed put it, "by discussing with the other children, I realize that my situation is not the worst."  

IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services in response to the needs of the vulnerable migrants are aligned with the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, 2023. The MRP aims to address the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations and host communities in countries situated along the Eastern Migratory Route, located between the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

For more information contact: Kaousar Saad, Communication Focal Point  

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities