Child Protection Coordinator - Somalia Program
“Whatever I do, no matter how small or big, direct or indirect, I hope that my actions will save someone’s life.” From beginning as a social worker in Kenya, to working with child protection for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), for Eliab Mulili, the motivation behind his work has always been clear. His sense of purpose retains its clarity now that his primary focus is on the ongoing and complex needs of the Somali population, as the DRC’s child protection coordinator for the Horn of Africa and Yemen.
During his time as a social worker with the Kenyan government, Eliab began to work closely with policy makers in the drafting of policy documents after having been responsible for child protection activities at the district level. Involved in coordination activities with humanitarian partner organizations and international NGOs, his subsequent move towards humanitarian work outside of the government came as a natural one. Still, the transition to working with international NGOs allowed Eliab to focus more directly on improving the situation on the ground. “I really wanted to be in touch with issues in the community,” he says. “Coming from policy and procedural work, I had to take on more responsibilities in terms of strategic planning and working with partners.” Even though he has kept working in his general geographic region, this shift has also meant that he has been exposed to new cultural and professional settings: “I have had to travel to other countries where the communities and the working environment were totally different – and not always safe.”
For the people themselves, IDPs, refugees and other affected populations, the issues of concern and types of protection needed are very much alike”
In his present work, Eliab facilitates the implementation of a range of protection activities in Somalia’s various regions by supporting colleagues and partner groups in the field. Currently, the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a major priority and concern: “We are working all the time with our colleagues in the field to ensure that IDPs are able to return to their homes in their villages of origin – this is always our primary ambition,” he says. But working in a region where new crises keep occurring, measuring the impact of his work can be frustrating. “Today we bring 500 people back to their places of origin, and tomorrow for some reason 600 are displaced. We want to be able to say ‘this is what we’ve done, these are the real changes that have taken place,’ but change is slow.”
As he manages programs spread across Somalia’s different regions, reconciling the diversity of the contexts within the country is also a major programming challenge: “Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia operate in very different ways, which can be a big challenge for us in creating strategic plans.” Access and security are the dominant issues for his work in South Central Somalia, Eliab explains, whereas in Somaliland, recognition of IDPs by the local administration is the major challenge. In Puntland, yet another set of interests affect how programs are designed and implemented.
However, in Eliab’s experience, having joint programming responsibilities for the three regions makes sense, since the issues faced by the affected populations are often similar. “For the people themselves, IDPs, refugees and other affected populations, the issues of concern and types of protection needed are very much alike,” says Eliab, highlighting the importance of fostering coordination efforts between the regions.
Mindful of the challenges he faces in his work, both now and in the future, Eliab sees the significance of discussing common issues with other professionals in the humanitarian sector. He finds his membership in PHAP and the training he recently attended in Nairobi as important steps to improve such communication: “There are otherwise very few such gatherings, where professionals from different contexts and subsectors can come together and share their experiences,” Eliab says.