Assessment of Somali refugees’ wellbeing: the centrality of human needs.
Balyejjusa, Senkosi Moses
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There is a substantial body of literature on psychological wellbeing of refugees in psychology, especially in relation to refugee acculturation. However, very little research has been carried out on refugee wellbeing by assessing refugees’ objective conditions of living. This paper seeks to bridge this gap by evaluating the satisfaction of the human needs of Somali refugees in Kampala, Uganda. Drawing on data from thirty six individual in-depth interviews and seven focus group discussions with seventy Somali refugee and twenty two Ugandan study participants living in Kisenyi slum, the paper shows that the study participants assessed the satisfaction of seven objective elements. They include peace and security, housing, education, health care, financial security, food and employment. These objective elements can be seen to represent human needs when analysed in relation to Len Doyal and Ian Gough’s (1991) theory of human need formulation. Specifically the objective elements are similar in some respect to Doyal and Gough’s identified intermediate needs of physical security, nutritional food and safe water, economic security, protective housing, appropriate education, appropriate health care and a non-hazardous work environment. Doyal and Gough (1991) maintain that their identified needs equate to functionings such as being nourished, healthy, literate and numerate (educated), sheltered, clothed, etc under the capability approach. The study participants assessed some Somali refugees as having adequate satisfaction of these objective elements while others as having inadequate satisfaction. Further, the Ugandan study participants evaluated the satisfaction of the elements more positively while the Somali refugee participants evaluated the satisfaction more negatively. In this paper I argue that this is the case because of the differences in Somali refugees’ financial resources and social support, a comparison of Somali refugees’ life situation in Kampala vis-à-vis their previous life situation in Somalia, a comparison of Ugandans’ life situation with Somali refugees’ life situation, and the non-discriminatory and accepting host environment. Refugees with more financial resources and stronger social support have their human needs such as housing, food, health care, education, employment and financial security adequately satisfied while refugees with fewer financial resources and weak social support have their needs inadequately satisfied. The financial resources are mainly from the small and medium scale business enterprises owned by Somali refugees in Kisenyi while the social support is mainly in form of financial remittances from relatives and friends from industrialised or developed countries. In addition to financial resources and mutual social support, the non-discriminatory and accepting attitudes and behaviours of Ugandans resulted in the satisfaction of the human needs of housing, education, peace and security, and employment of this category of Somali refugees. The positive evaluation of the satisfaction of Somali refugees’ needs of housing, education, food and financial security by Ugandans is because most Ugandans living in Kisenyi are in a poorer financial position than Somali refugees. On the other hand, Somali refugees’ negative evaluation of the satisfaction of their needs is due to Somali refugees comparing their better conditions of living in Somalia before the outbreak of the civil war with their conditions of living in Kisenyi. The findings of the study suggest that financial resources and a non-discriminatory and accepting host environment are instrumentally important in promoting Somali refugees’ wellbeing since they guarantee adequate satisfaction of the human needs of Somali refugees. I therefore conclude by noting that having means to financial resources and a non-discriminatory and accepting host environment are fundamental in promoting and guaranteeing refugees’ wellbeing in general and Somali refugees in particular.