Even though Somaliland is now peaceful and democratic, the inequitable distribution of health services, poor sanitation and hygiene, water scarcity and lacking economic development opportunities for the population continue to mark the lives of thousands of families.
Life in Somaliland is improving, but progress is slow
A little girl in Hargeisa (photo: H. Atkins)
Somaliland is a self-declared independent state that is internationally seen as an autonomous region of Somalia, but is not officially recognised as yet. Hargeisa is Somaliland’s capital city and has a population of roughly 450,000.
The many years of civil war in southern Somalia no longer affect Somaliland and people have been able to live comparatively stable and peaceful lives here. However, it wasn’t until 1994, three years after Somaliland had declared independence from Somalia, that its involvement in the armed conflict came to an end. Considerable damage had been done in the preceding years (1980-1994) and much of Hargeisa was destroyed by heavy bombardments. Although a lot of the city has been reconstructed, much of the medical and social infrastructure is yet to be rebuilt, especially in poorer areas.
Hargeisa is a financial hub in the region and remittances from abroad are also an important part of the local economy. Many families who formerly lived abroad have moved back since Somaliland’s independence and now live in impressive mansions in the hills surrounding the city. Overall, however, the living conditions of the local population remain extremely precarious. Social and economic recovery has been painfully slow and the majority of the population continue to live on less than one dollar a day. The absence of educational facilities and technical know-how are further aggravating the vicious cycle of poverty and unemployment.
SOS Children’s Villages’ support in Hargeisa is as vital as ever for families today
In Lixle near the SOS Children’s Village Hargeisa, for example, there is still a camp for displaced people; most of its inhabitants are victims of the civil war of the late 1980s. Living conditions in such areas are particularly harsh: most people live in rudimentary huts made out of plastic bags, cardboard and the like, struggling to provide for their families. Often these living conditions and the lack of food can lead to illnesses in both parents and children, and family stability is severely jeopardised. Affected families can now benefit from the family strengthening programme that is provided by the SOS Social Centre in Hargeisa, which offers support measures such as basic health care, education, counselling, advice on children's rights, childcare skills and income-generating activities, thus enabling parents to protect and care for their children.
What we do in Hargeisa
Mothers at the medical centre (photo: H. Atkins)
SOS Children's Villages began its work in Hargeisa in 2009. Our social centre here serves as a place where the community can come together, support each other, exchange information and experiences, and create awareness on any number of topics, for example the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the community. The centre also gives books, school uniforms and school materials to pupils whose parents could otherwise not afford to send them to school.
Parents can submit business ideas to the social centre and receive a loan, as well as skills training, equipment or other tools for income generating activities. The overarching aim of these services is to support families, and the community as a whole, so that children can be protected and cared for and will not be abandoned.
Our medical centre here is also open to the community and serves around 12,600 children and mothers each year. Amongst others, it provides the following services: treatment of common ailments (respiratory diseases, malaria), vaccinations, family planning services, ante/post natal care, voluntary HIV testing, and health education.
For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, twelve SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 120 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
Together with children from the community, they attend the SOS Kindergarten and are thus integrated into the community from a young age. There is also a Montessori class at the kindergarten.