Our Team in Somalia


Ala’a Nemer

Country Director
Mr. Ala’a Nemer, a national of Jordan is the Country Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) since July 2023.

Prior to this role, he served at the Middle East Regional Office as the Regional Management and Oversight Senior Advisor. In his previous years of professional career, he served as Head of Support Service for the Amman Multi Country Office, Regional Finance Advisor for IPAS in the UNOPS Headquarters, Acting Chief of Finance and Budget Section for UNMAS and Finance Analyst for the Peace and Security Cluster in New York.

With more than 23 years of experience, 18 of which are with UNOPS, Mr. Ala’a has built extensive experience in developing and implementing strategies, building, and supporting successful partnerships, enabling quality project delivery while managing efficient operations and offering innovative solutions for operational challenges. Over the years of his career, he gained a great exposure to different geographical contexts within which UNOPS operates.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration with concentration in Finance, he is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

Mr. Ala'a is married and a proud parent of 9 years old twins: Karam and Qais, he enjoys Motorsports, hiking and cooking every now and then.

Catriona Laing

Catriona Laing

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia
Catriona Laing is the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and Head of UNSOM. Appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 3 May 2023, Ms. Laing brings to the position over 35 years of experience in diplomacy, development and international relations, including having held United Kingdom government policy roles in various departments at the national and international levels. Most recently, from November 2018 until April 2023, she served as British High Commissioner to Nigeria. Prior to that, she was the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 2014 until 2018.

In addition to her diplomatic roles, Ms. Laing has held several positions in government policy and international development, notably as Deputy Head of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (2000-2004), Director for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice (2009-2012) and as the Head of the Department for International Development in Sudan (2006-2009). She headed the UN Development Office in Somalia from 1993 to 1994.

Ms. Catriona Laing holds a Master of Science degree in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master of Business Administration from Cranfield University, both in the United Kingdom.

Crispen Rukasha

Head of Office
Crispen Rukasha, a Zimbabwe citizen and recently coming from OCHA Syria operation has over 25 years experience working in humanitarian, recovery, development, and peace building work. His experience covers operations in Zimbabwe, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia with UNDP focusing on reintegration of internally displaced persons and durable solutions. He also worked with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as Returns, Recovery and Reintegration Officer. He served as Deputy Head of OCHA in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen before taking position of Head of OCHA for Syria. He is well vested in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus including principled humanitarian assistance, programming and coordination and policy advise. He also brings experience of working for and with peacekeeping missions in conflict, post conflict and UN Integrated Mission settings thus bringing the political, humanitarian, human rights, and development arms of the UN together and the workings of the Interagency Standing Committee. He also fostered conditions for, and significantly improved the working relations with UN humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs leading to a more inclusive, joint and collaborative programming, and a more effective coordinated overall response. Crispen holds a Master of Science degree in Regional and Urban Planning from the University of Zimbabwe.
Dr. Reene

Dr Reinhilde (Renee) Van de Weerdt

WHO Representative to Somalia
Dr Reinhilde (Renee) Van de Weerdt is the WHO Representative to Somalia.

Dr. Renee`s career started as a Medical Coordinator for MSF Belgium in various countries namely DRC, Sierra Leone, Chad, Rwanda, and Chechnya (1994 – 1998) and as a medical officer in the WHO Polio department (1998 – 2004). She moved to join UNICEF as Chief of Health and Nutrition in Chad (2004 – 2006), Senior Health Adviser (Child survival) in various locations (2006 – 2007) and as Chief Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in UNICEF/HQ NY (2008 – 2013). Renee was the Senior Technical Advisor for Reproductive Health Commodities with UNFPA in New York (2013 – 2017). She rejoined WHO in 2017 as Chief of Emergency Management and Support in WHE and the most recent position she held was WHO Country Representative in Djibouti.

She holds a medical degree from the University of Leuven, a MSc in Epidemiology from LSHTM and an MBA from the University of Wales.

El-Khidir Daloum

Representative and Country Director
El-Khidir Daloum Mahmoud Ahmed, a Sudanese national, took up his position with WFP Somalia in September 2021. Prior to his appointment in Somalia, he served as Representative and Country Director for WFP Uganda from November 2016.

Before joining WFP, Mr Daloum was Director of Programmes for Africa and the Middle East at Safeworld from 2013 to 2015. He previously worked for Save the Children from 1991 to 2012 in a series of regional and national leadership roles spanning Latin America, South East Europe, South East Europe and Africa – including as Programme Manager and then Country Director for Somalia from 2001-2007. He has also worked at the Sudan Ministry of Finance and Planning, the Sudan Economy Research Group, and the UK Overseas Development Agency.

Daloum holds a Master’s degree in Social policy, Planning and Participation in Developing Countries from the London School of Economics & Political Science. In 2014, he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to the protection of children, particularly in Africa.
Etienne Peterschmitt

Etienne Peterschmitt

Mr Etienne Peterschmitt is the FAO Representative to Somalia. In his second experience working for FAO in Somalia he is also Head of Programme. He joined FAO in 2002. From technical to managerial positions, his vast experience with the UN specialized agency includes work in Haiti, Yemen, and several Eastern African countries (Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda). Previously, he worked for the private sector, NGOs and the ICRC in various locations worldwide. Mr Peterschmitt holds a MSc/Engineer degree in Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture by the Institute for Higher Education in Tropical Agri-Food Industry & Rural Development in Montpellier, France, and a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Development by the Institute of Economic and Social Development Studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Mr Peterschmitt is a French citizen.
 Mr Frantz Celestin.

Frantz Celestin

Chief of Mission
Mr Celestin joined IOM in 2006 and has held several senior positions in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to being appointed IOM Chief of Mission for Somalia, Mr.Frantz Celestin was Chief of Mission in IOM Nigeria from August 2016 to May 2022. Between January 2012 and August 2016, Mr. Celestin was the Head of the Labour Mobility and Human Development Division at IOM Somalia. During his tenure, IOM started one of its flagship projects in Somalia, the Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) programme. MIDA has successfully run for over a decade, connecting Somali diaspora experts with local professionals and public institutions to strengthen the capacity of state institutions thanks to its innovative skill transfer approach. Mr.Celestin was also the Regional Program Manager of the Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa (FMM West Africa) since 2016.
George Conway

George Conway

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia
George Conway of Canada is the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator (DRSG/RC/HC) for Somalia.

Prior to this role, George served as Deputy Director at UNDP’s Crisis Bureau in New York. His vast UN career includes serving as Strategic Advisor to UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa (2012- 2013), Country Director a.i. in South Sudan for the first year following its declaration of independence, and prior to independence as UNDP’s Head of Programmes in Juba (2007-2012).

He started his UN career in Indonesia (2001-2007) on UNDP’s crisis prevention and recovery portfolio, and recovery efforts in Aceh following the Indian Ocean tsunami. Before joining UNDP, George worked in Ottawa as an analyst on peace and conflict issues, and with the Canadian national stand-by roster of civilian expertise for rapid-response deployment to peace-keeping operations.

He holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs (Development / Conflict) from Carleton University in Ottawa, an interdisciplinary Master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario, and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Winnipeg.

Henry Danso

Henry Danso

Head of Office
Mr. Henry Danso is the ILO’s Employment Intensive Infrastructure Programme (EIIP) Specialist responsible for Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti. He is also the acting Head of the ILO Somalia Office. Mr. Danso has a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering and Finance. He has more than 30 years of experience in rural roads engineering, project management and contract management.
Ishaku Maitumbi

Ishaku Maitumbi

Officer in Charge/Head of Programmes
Mr. Ishaku Maitumbi is Officer in Charge/Head of Programmes for UN-HABITAT Somalia, which is the largest UN-HABITAT programme within the African region. He specialises in urbanization, displacement and local government systems strengthening, especially in post-conflict and developing environments. He is an experienced team leader and a committed capacity builder. Ishaku is a Nigerian/British national and a chartered urban planner (MRTPI) with over 20 years' professional experience in the sector, including more than 12 years with the United Nations. This varied experience has been gained in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and is backed up with an MSc in Urban Planning and International Development (Oxford Brookes, UK).

Kirsten Young

Kirsten Young, a national of the New Zealand, is the Chief of United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)’s Human Rights and Protection Group and the Representative of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) since 2017. In 2020, Kirsten was seconded to the World Food Programme to support its development of a Protection and Accountability Policy and Disability Rights Road Map.

Prior to Somalia, Kirsten served in Bentiu, Unity State as a Protection of Civilians Advisor for the UN mission in South Sudan as well as in Port-au-Prince in the UN’s Haitian mission. From 2010-2011, Kirsten headed the Nepal programme in Kathmandu for the International Centre for Transitional Justice, focusing on reparations and truth and justice mechanisms. She worked for OHCHR attached to the UN mission in Afghanistan from 2008-2010 specialising in economic and social and supported the establishment of the Ministry of Justice’s Human Rights Unit as well as Afghanistan’s National Independent Human Rights Commission.

From 2002 to 2007, Kirsten headed the advocacy programme for Landmine Survivors Network, focusing on the UN Disability Rights Convention and the Cluster Munitions Convention negotiations. In 2000-2002, Kirsten was a legal advisor at the Resident Claims Tribunal in Zurich and in the 1990s worked as a corporate lawyer in Chicago, Illinois.

She has a Doctorate in International Law and a Masters in International Law both from the George Washington University in Washington DC. During this time, she worked as a legal associate for Arnold and Porter, focusing on international law issues, including advocacy for the inclusion of victim assistance in the Mine Ban Treaty. She has a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Otago, New Zealand. She is a member of the New York and New Zealand Bars.
A profile photo for WBG, CM for Somalia

Kristina Svensson

World Bank
Country Manager, Somalia, Eastern, and Southern Africa
Kristina Svensson joined the Bank in 2004, after working as a consultant with the then World Bank Institute (WBI), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), as well as with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). She has since held various positions, including Senior Operations Officer and Senior Mining Specialist in the Energy and Extractive Global Practice. From 2016 to 2018, she was Resident Representative for Guinea Bissau. Her most recent assignment being Special Assistant to the Regional Vice-President for the Africa Region. She has a Master’s Degree in Human Rights from Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.

Mkhululi Ncube, (PhD)

Head of Office
Mkhululi Ncube is the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Country Programme Manager/Head of Office for Somalia. He oversees all UNCDF activities in all the Federal Member States.

A firm believer in the power of fiscal decentralisation, Mkhululi has spent the past decade driving innovative ways of getting finance to subnational governments to accelerate positive change in the well-being of communities. Prior to joining UNCDF, Mkhululi was the Head of Local Government at the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) in South Africa. FFC is a statutory body that advises the South African government and parliament on the division of revenue and other intergovernmental fiscal relations matters. Mkhululi also spent several years teaching at various universities in Africa. He has published several articles on public finance.

Mkhululi, a Zimbabwean national, earned a PhD in Economics from Gothenburg University in Sweden, and MSc and BSc Economics degrees from the University of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Charles Leonard Mballa

Mr. Charles Leonard Mballa is a Côte d’Ivoire national and possesses a rich tapestry of professional experience, covering nine countries and over twenty-five years of experience in academia, government, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Prior to his current appointment as the UNHCR Representative in Somalia, he led the Protection Service at the UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes in Nairobi, Kenya. Previous UNHCR assignments, among others, include Deputy Representative in the Central African Republic, Senior Protection Coordinator at the Division of International Protection, Geneva, Switzerland, and Senior Emergency Coordinator in Shire, Ethiopia. He has also served in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and South Sudan. In addition to law and policy development, oversight, and strategic directions on UNHCR protection mandates and activities, he has developed extensive experience in the design and development of strategic plans for return and reintegration, in coordination with host governments, humanitarian partners, DPKO missions, and development actors, helping to build bridges between humanitarian action and sustainable development plans. Before joining the UN, he worked as a legal adviser for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cote d’Ivoire.

He holds a Master II of Arts in Public Law from the University Félix Houphouet-Boigny in Côte d’Ivoire and a Master of Arts in Public Law from the University of Yaoundé II in Cameroon.
Hubert Gijzen

Mr. Hubert Gijzen

Regional Director
Professor, Hubert Gijzen, a national of The Netherlands is the UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa in Nairobi, and also serves as UNESCO Representative to Kenya, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia and Uganda since July 2021.

Mr. Gijzen holds a PhD in Biotechnology and has an established career of over 40 years in both academics and international cooperation for sustainable development. Throughout his career, he has lived and worked in various countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe, in a range of senior functions as Full Professor and Chair in Universities, as a Diplomat, Team Leader, and Regional Representative. Besides his current work for UNESCO, he holds academic positions as full Professor of Environmental Biotechnology at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education (since 1995) and as Visiting Professor in other institutions.

Mr. Gijzen joined the UN in 2006 as the Director of the UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific based in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2015, he was appointed as the Regional Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mr. Justin Smith

Chief of the Mine Action Programme in Somalia.
Justin Smith is Chief of the Mine Action Programme in Somalia. Mr. Smith has been working as Chief of Mine Action Programme in Libya and with UNMAS Programme in UNSOS/Somalia as the Head of Policy & Analysis supporting the Somalia government and the AU peacekeeping mission (ATMIS) to mitigate the threat of IEDs and manage weapons and ammunition.

Before that, Mr. Smith worked at the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). He also served for 23 years in the US military as a Navy Special Operations Officer and Master EOD Technician in posts throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa in roles ranging from security cooperation, intelligence and counter-terrorism. He holds MBA degrees from UCLA and the National University of Singapore and a MA in Security Studies from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Mr. Lionel Laurens

Resident Representative
Mr. Lauren, a national of France is the Resident Representative of UNDP in Somalia since June 2023. Before, assuming this role, he was the UNDP Resident Representative in Zambia since 2019 and served as the UNDP Country Director in Guinea from 2015 to 2019.

Between 2014 to 2015, he was the Head of Programmes at UNDP Sierra Leone and supported reprogramming UNDP interventions to respond to the Ebola virus outbreak. In the years 2008 till 2014, he was UNDP Iraq Inclusive Growth and Area Based Development Cluster Team Leader and managed a portfolio of projects focusing on local governance, service delivery, economic recovery, and poverty reduction.

Mr. Laurens worked in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008 as UNDP Manager of the National Area Based Development Programme of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, engaging with Afghan communities to rebuild rural infrastructures, deliver basic services and promote economic development.

From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Laurens contributed to launch the World Bank supported Community Driven Development Poverty Reduction Fund in Laos as Senior Technical Advisor to empower villages in poor districts to plan, manage and implement their own public investments in a decentralized and transparent manner. From 1997 till 2002, he supported he Laotian Government, ILO, and UNDP in developing adapted participatory and integrated planning approaches and methodologies in remote mountainous areas.

Mr. Laurens holds Master’s Degree in Engineering and Management from the French Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers, and MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility at Ashridge Business School, UK.
Regional Representative, UNODC

Mr. Neil Walsh

Regional Representative
Mr. Neil Walsh is the Regional Representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Eastern Africa since December 2021. He serves as the Head of Mission for 13 countries in the East Africa and Western Indian Ocean Region, including Somalia. The UNODC Regional Representative is tasked with delivering UNODC Strategic Vision for Africa which includes response to crime, terrorism, security, and health threats.

Mr. Walsh joined the UN in 2016 and led the UNODC's global Cybercrime, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism Department in Vienna. Prior to joining the UN, he served for over 15 years within the UK National Crime Agency countering international serious organised crime and terrorism including long-term postings to Europol headquarters in The Hague and the British High Commission in Malta. Mr. Walsh holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Psychology and Criminology and an M.Sc. in Criminal Investigation. He comes from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is married with four children.

Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira

Ms. Kacyira brings to this position more than 30 years of experience in a multifaceted career in diplomacy and community and political engagement, as well as in leadership in development and humanitarian assistance, at local, national and international levels. Since 2020, Ms. Kacyira has served as the resident High Commissioner to the Government of Ghana and non-resident representative to Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Prior to that, Ms. Kacyira served as Governor of the Eastern Province (2011), Rwanda’s largest province, and as Executive Mayor of Kigali (2006-2011). Between 2003 and 2006, she served as a Member of Parliament and actively participated in Parliament’s legislative and oversight functions, in addition to community mobilization.

In addition to her political and diplomatic roles, Ms. Kacyira has held several positions in development and humanitarian assistance, notably as Deputy Executive Director with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) from 2011 to 2018, and also in programme and project management with the Ministry of Agriculture in Rwanda, as well as various non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam and Care International.

Ms. Kacyira holds a Master of Veterinarian Science in Animal Production and Economics from James Cook University in Australia, and a Bachelor of Veterinarian Medicine from Makerere University in Uganda.

Ms. Lucy Ndungu

Regional Manager for UN Volunteer East and Southern Africa.
Ms. Lucy Ndungu, a national of Kenya is the Regional Manager East and Southern Africa region. She joined the UNV from the Resident Coordinator’s Office as the Peace and Development Adviser, UN Uganda. In that role, Lucy provided the UN Resident Coordinator, Country Team and Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and UNDP NY with strategic analytical and advisory support on politics, peace and sustainable development in Uganda and the region; implementation of the UN Reforms and in localization of the Sustainable Development Goals in Uganda; and with the Government of Uganda to develop a standing infrastructure for peace.
Prior to serving with the UN, Lucy worked in civil society in Kenya as the National Coordinator for Partnership for Peace and Security, a national civil society network in Kenya providing intellectual and strategic leadership to the organization. The organization is one of the founding members of Uwiano Platform for Peace which became a global reference point for infrastructures for peace. She also co-founded an NGO on women empowerment.

Ms. Ndungu holds a master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Nairobi and a bachelor’s degree in Management from Maseno University, and executive certificate in leadership and management from the Northwestern University, Chicago, USA. She is a Fellow of Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town, South Africa; Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Norway. She also holds various post-graduate certifications in governance, peacebuilding, management, and leadership.
Mr. Niyi Ojuolape

Niyi Ojuolape

UNFPA Representative.

Mr. Niyi Ojuolape is the UNFPA Representative for Somalia. He has previously served as UNFPA Representative for Ghana. Prior to this role, he served as UNFPA’s Chief of Staff a.i. at the Headquarters in New York and before that, as the Special Assistant to the Executive Director. In that position, Mr. Ojuolape doubled as the Head of Secretariat of the Executive Committee. In the course of his rich career in the international development sphere, he also worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the Deputy Representative a.i. of the organization, liaising with political influencers within government, colleagues and Development Partners for the initiation of the landmark advocacy on Demographic Dividend. Before joining UNFPA in 2011, Mr. Ojuolape served the Nigerian Government in different capacities, as Special Assistant to the Minister of Health and as the Chief Programme Officer for Donor Coordination in the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA). In that Agency, he worked between 2002 and 2009 on several bilateral and multilateral projects alike including those funded by DFID, the World Bank and the Global Fund. Mr. Ojuolape holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Banking and Finance, a Masters in Finance as well as Masters from Bocconi University in the Management of International Organizations.
A profile photo for UN Women CM for Somalia

Sadiq Syed

UN Women
Country Programme Manager for UN Women Somalia.
Mr. Sadiq Syed brings over 20 years’ experience serving with the United Nations. He has been working with the UN Women since its inception and since held the positions of Deputy Country Director for Afghanistan, Deputy Regional Program Director in the South Africa Regional Office, Country Representative in Iraq and most recently, Regional Program Manager, Ending Violence against Women and Girls of the UN Women East & Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) and has led the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative Stream 1 in the region.
In his earlier career, Mr. Syed worked with the United Nations (OHCHR and UNFPA) in Ethiopia, Eritrea, East Timor, India, Liberia and Sudan. He also served at the National Commission for Women, Government of India and also as a faculty at the Indian Law Institute-India, visiting fellow at the Clark University and contributed to the fellow’s paper to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government-USA. Mr. Syed is the exponent of the ‘Coordinated Responses Approach (CRA) in Addressing GBV’ in 1997 and specializes in gender, human rights, peace and security and has authored and co-authored several publications on human rights and gender. He holds LL.M. in International Human Rights Law and PhD in Women’s Rights Law.

Wafaa Saeed Abdelate

Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef

UNICEF Somalia Representative
Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef has devoted more than 20 years to public service with the UN. She served with OCHA, UNICEF and WFP in large scale complex settings with programme management and coordination experience spanning both humanitarian and development action. Her country level experience comprises Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Syria, and Ethiopia. She also served in leadership roles with OCHA in New York and Geneva.Prior to joining the UN System in 2000, she worked with the private sector, academia and non-government organizations in Sudan focusing on planning and delivering services to displaced people and on environmental conservation.Wafaa obtained a Master of Architecture from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, Master of Physical Planning from the University of Khartoum, and a Bachelor Degree in Architecture from the University of Khartoum.
Ygor Scarcia

Ygor Scarcia

Mr. Scarcia began his career with UNIDO in 2011. He has a great deal of expertise in developing and operating technical cooperation programmes in fragile and post-crisis environments such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. In Iraq, he focused on developing small and medium enterprises, promoting investment, and enhancing livelihood opportunities in sustainable entrepreneurship activities for women and youth. Mr. Scarcia also worked in the technology start-up sector in San Francisco, California. He holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco, California, and a BA and MA in political science and international relations from LUISS University in Rome, Italy.