Somaliland: Sanaag The largest but the most neglected region of Somaliland

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The Scenic Dallo Mountains in SanaagBy. M. Ali (Medeshi).

Sanaag is the largest region of Somaliland, and it is also the most neglected. This disregard has been ongoing since Independence, but most of the current blame falls upon Sanaagers themselves. Many have migrated to the western part of Somaliland or further, and invested both money and time away from home.

Expatriates from Sanaag can be found in North America, Europe and Asia. For example, most of the Somali workers in the UAE originate from Sanaag and are among those who have the highest incomes.

When these expatriates send money home, build houses and settle their children in Somaliland, Hargeisa is a more popular choice than their native area of Sanaag. One of the reasons behind this is that the government of Somaliland has concentrated almost all development projects in the capital city and its environs, rather than sharing the national income equally with other regions.

Photo : Sheep housed at Dayaha boarding school

The lack of interest showed by Sanaagers in their homeland can also be blamed in large part on the underdeveloped transport infrastructure. Accessibility by road is often tiresome and time-consuming: overland access to Erigavo, the capital of Sanaag, takes at least 12 hours on the nearest tarmac road that connects Burao and Lasaanod to Mogadishu. This has a negative impact on business development, as merchants have to use other means of transport, such as expensive air travel. Cash crops cannot be exported to west Somaliland due to lack of accessibility; for example, the famous cabbage farm owned by Mohamed Jama has been abandoned. Farmers have to divert their sales to Bossaso which is hostile to Somaliland.

Another factor is that the Hargeisa-based government discourages aid directed towards Sanaag, under the pretext that the East is not stable. The government claims that it cannot guarantee the safety of aid workers who could deliver desperately needed medical and humanitarian assistance to the Sanaag people. Sanaag has the highest rate of infant mortality in Somaliland due to lack of medical care and qualified doctors.

Education is another area of concern in Sanaag. Dayaha Intermediate school was built by the British in the colonial era, and is the alma mater of most educated middle aged Sanaagers. The school has been extensively looted, partially demolished and is currently being used as a shelter for livestock by pastoralists. Students now have to travel a long distance on the rough Garadag road in order to attend higher education in Hargeisa.

Self help scheme : Construction of the road to Erigavo

Sanaag is fortunate enough to have an abundance of water and a fertile landscape. Sanaagers need to return to their native land and contribute to alleviating the suffering of its people, rather than always looking to Hargeisa. Regardless of clan or district, the people of Sanaag must come together to ensure a better future for this most beautiful but neglected part of Somaliland.

By. M. Ali (Medeshi).

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