Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -Abdulkerim Ali, 25, left war- ravaged Somalia three years ago, and headed for Ethiopia hoping for a better future. He made his way across the border with three of his friends and proceeded to Addis Abeba, where all four registered as refugee students.
They were awarded close to a 200 dollar monthly living and educational stipend. The stipend, allotted to them by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), coupled with the money that they would receive from their families, seemed, at the time, a very reasonable amount to live on. With this confidence, the four young men went in search of an abode.
They settled for the heavily Somali-populated area around Bole St. MichaelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Church, commonly known as Rwanda. There they found the familiarity of their countrymen and a small two bedroom condominium, of which they could call home.
When they first signed their lease, they were asked to pay a monthly rent of 2,500Br. Although the figure was an exorbitant one at the time, the young men were not too affected, as they would be splitting it evenly. Three years on, however, they are living in the same condominium and their rent has doubled to 5,000 Br a month.
The young men are not as nonchalant about the high figure as they were three years ago. Abdulkerim graduated from Unity University College in February 2012, in Social Anthropology; which means he has now lost the student expense money, he previously received from the UNHCR. He now receives less than 100 dollars a month from the UNHCR. With that loss and the huge increase in rent, renting a home is costing a lot more than anticipated.
Even the 100 to 150 dollars a month that the young men receive from their families, both in their homeland and other places across the world, does not seem to be helping with their cost of living. Their basic survival has become a huge challenge in itself.
“Fifty percent of what I get goes to pay the rent; the next big expense is food,” Abdulkerim grumbled.
Abdulkerim does not understand the increases that he, his friends and others like them are asked to pay. “There are houses being built everywhere, and yet every time we pay rent, we are asked to increase the amount”.