Success Calling in Kilo 26 Camp


Mubarek using his start-up kit to repair mobile phones at his new shop in Kilo 26 refugee camp, Eastern Sudan (Photo: L. Pattison/UNHCR Sudan)

Twenty years ago, Mubarek’s parents found refuge in Eastern Sudan and settled in Kilo 26 camp, Kassala State, fleeing the harsh Eritrean civil war in the mid-80s. Approximately 74,000 protracted refugees live in camps in the East, 58% of whom were born in Sudan. When Mubarek, 23, and his brother reached adulthood, his family’s food assistance from WFP ended as they were no longer eligible for this support.

Mubarek struggled to make a living, working in farms surrounding Kilo 26 camp and a bakery. “Working in the bakery wasn’t stable. I never knew if they wanted me for one, two or four days a week, and sometimes they didn’t need me at all. It was so difficult to support my elderly parents and three siblings without stability.” He even tried his hand at running his own shop selling sugar and soap, but despite his determination, his shop went bankrupt in the face of stiff competition.

In 2012, Mubarek’s life changed when he was selected to participate in a mobile phone repair course with the Sudanese Red Crescent supported by the Transitional Solutions Initiative (TSI) Programme. “I used to do simple repairs, but the course provided me with the technical know-how to do more complicated things. It really helped me, and I thank God I had the opportunity to take part.”

Jointly implemented by UNDP and UNHCR, the TSI Joint Programme seeks to enhance the self-reliance of refugees living in a protracted situation and their host communities in East Sudan through vocational training and business development support. The Joint Programme is funded by Norway, the Netherlands, Japan and the IKEA Foundation.

After graduation, Mubarek was provided with a start-up kit to put his newly acquired skills into practice, entering into business with his older brother. Together, they now rent a small shop in Kilo 26 camp where Mubarek repairs phones and his brother sells staple items. “The kit allowed me to start my own business. At the bakery, I earned around 15 SDG (US$ 2.30) a day, but now I make about 40 to 50 SDG (US$ 7-8). The course increased my income, gave me independence and improved my job security.” Under the TSI, 65% of trainee graduates have secured employment relating to their training.

In October 2013, an agreement was reached between UNHCR, Sudan's Commission for Refugees and Kassala State authorities to grant 30,000 work permits to refugees in Kassala State under the TSI framework. This agreement will allow refugees supported by the TSI to enter the labour market with greater ease and use their skills to become meaningfully employed.