After her husband left her, 49-year-old Fatima became the main breadwinner for her four daughters. Driven by a desire to ensure a better future for her children, she immigrated to Egypt in 2017, bringing her two youngest children with her.
“I took it one step at a time, but I kept trying to make my daughters successful,” she said. “Leaving my older daughters behind was one of the hardest decisions I had to make.”
While in Egypt, Fatima could barely survive on short-term jobs as most employers wouldn’t hire her because of her age. “They told me I was too old and not healthy enough, and when my daughter, then 17, went to apply for a job, they told her she was too young,” Fatima said.
Before start COVID-19, migrants in Egypt and elsewhere are already vulnerable. This got worse after the pandemic, and Fatima and her daughters struggled to make ends meet. “We suffered even more and there was no one to help us,” said Fatima.
United Nations News / Abdelmonem Makki
Support for reintegration provided by the UN
Through the Sudanese community in Egypt, Fatima learned about the United Nations migration agency (IOM) Supported Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program, and realized that returning to Sudan was a viable option.
In June 2021, the IOM arranged for the return of Fatima and other Sudanese nationals stranded in Egypt. After arriving in Sudan, Fatima was among those who received cash reintegration assistance, which enabled her to cover her needs across the economic and social aspects of the reintegration process.
Sudan continues to face a number of overlapping challenges, including inland population displacement due to conflict, climate and socio-cultural conditions, leading to increased levels of food insecurity. The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 worsens already high prices of food, medicine and other commodities, rising unemployment and falling exports.
A successful businessman
However, with the support she received, Fatima was able to set up a micro business. IOM also helped her apply for national health insurance, which insures her and her two daughters, both of whom receive support to pursue their education through the program.
The cash assistance provided by IOM Sudan proved to be a quick and flexible way to help her reintegrate. This supportive approach allows her and others in her situation to choose the business they want to start.
Fatima has set a goal of selling paraphernalia. She said: “It took me less than a month to get support, which made me even more determined to start a business of my own. She bought some household goods from the wholesale market to sell to the women in her community, who quickly became her customers.
To further expand her business, Fatima also began selling cooked meals to the healthcare facility in her neighborhood, which was experiencing a shortage of canteens for patients and visitors. “My business is going well,” she said, “and now I can provide for my daughters. Going back to Sudan is the best thing I can do.”