“Being a refugee doesn’t stop you from having ideas…” 

A settlement where innovation and creativity thrive.


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Where can you find tech innovators, teachers, humanitarians and environmentalists all in one place? The answer…Mirqaan refugee settlement in Ethiopia. 

Mirqaan is a place like no other. It’s 50 kilometres from Somalia and provides safety and shelter for refugees fleeing violence, drought and famine from across the border. Newly arrived refugees who have left everything behind to find safety have access to essentials, like healthcare, water and education.

Like many refugee camps and settlements around the world, Mirqaan is vibrant, creative and a place where collective spirit thrives. So many different people are involved in its development and upkeep: UNHCR and partners, governments, local Ethiopian volunteers and the refugees themselves who are taking on roles to support the camp.

Meet Isihak, Mahamed, Fartun and the Mirqaan refugee community

Isihak keeps refugee children learning

Isihak fled violence in Laascaanood, Somalia, with some of his students and their parents when clashes broke out during his morning lesson, forced to leave his wife and children behind. Now in Ethiopia, he is determined to carry on with his duty to keep teaching children the Koran, hoping that one day he can be reunited with his family. Initiatives like his are helping close an education gap, where schools are not able to absorb the needs of refugee students.

Mahamed helps UNHCR distribute essential items to fellow refugees

Mahamed, 25, is one of the refugee volunteers who helps distribute lifesaving core relief items.

Refugee volunteers in Mirqaan gather to attend a training to learn how to distribute core relief items to fellow refugees.

Local doctors provide refugees with lifesaving vaccines

Doctors from the local medical clinic in Mirqaan provide free vaccinations to refugees in the settlement. Dozens of refugees received vaccines for measles and COVID-19.

This local clinic is stepping up to meet the needs of refugees who have recently fled Laascaanood, Somalia. But limited resources in clinics across the Doolo zone are quickly depleting.

“Being a refugee doesn’t stop you from having ideas.” Refugee Fartun brought phone network to the settlement.

Fartun, 35, fled Laascaanood after her husband died and she was scared for her and her children’s lives. In Ethiopia, she set up a business to provide for her children, including setting up a makeshift antenna for a new phone network. Now, she is able to make phone calls to check how things are back home, and other refugees can get in touch with family members.

“Being a refugee doesn’t stop you from having ideas. Everybody has ideas and everyone is entrepreneurs. So, I wish you can also come up with different ideas that could help them.”

Mirqaan settlement is proof that it really is the people who make the place.

And it’s the public who have played a vital role in the development of places like Mirqaan. Without the ongoing generosity of supporters, UNHCR wouldn’t be able to provide lifesaving support for those forced to flee, nor create spaces for innovation and creativity to thrive.

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