Buur Hakaba, a Southwest Somalia district abandoned by humanitarian and development actors for years

Buur Hakaba is the largest district and the second-largest town of Bay region of The Southwest State of Somalia. The district is located some 180 km Northwest of Mogadishu and 60km Southeast of Baidoa. It has an estimated population of 200,000 people and consists of 400 villages and satellite villages.

The residents of the district are ago-pastoralists and their livelihoods depend on agricultural and livestock productions. The first settlement in Buur Hakaba dates back six (6) centuries ago according to local historians.

Burhakaba is subdivided into several administrative villages: Waaberi, Wadajir and Hoolwadaag. The district has been the epicenter of civilization in the Southwest regions of Somalia for centuries.

However, since the collapse of the military regime led by strongman Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, the district has been faced with challenges and setbacks in terms of social and economic infrastructure development as a result of the effects of the civil war and climatic natural disasters.

The populations in the district had been engaged in several rounds of conflicts, mainly over resources and control of regional and district administrations, which contributed heavily to the setbacks experienced by the local people. The experiences resulted in the district getting abandoned by administrative, humanitarian and development actors before and after the Southwest State of Somalia (SWSS) was established.

The district continues to face the challenges, and it seems that there are no efforts by the local intellectuals, traditional elders and educated people to put the district back on track and make it share resources with other communities in the region and the state who are assisted by the development and humanitarian actors and government institutions.

Problems in the district
The district is faced with several social, economic and political problems that have negatively impacted the local populations for years on end. These problems started when the civil war had broken out in Somalia in 1991 but the troubles intensified late 1990s after the local communities had experienced several intercommunal conflicts compounded by cyclical natural disasters.

The problems have persisted since then to a stage in which its communities felt disempowered and unable to overcome the challenges in the district.

With most of the educated and civilized people in the Southwest State of Somalia coming from this district, many have fled overseas while others have had no appetite anymore in engaging social and political activities at the local levels.

This low esteem led the communities in the district to feel isolated and abandoned in some way or disempowered to take initiatives towards developments in the district.
The problems which the district faces include lack of infrastructure development and social services that would benefit the local communities.

In such a large and old town of Bay region with a history of civilization and development, it can now be noted that the district is the least developing location of Bay region in terms of infrastructure development and social services. There is a phenomenon amongst the communities in the region that the local communities are not up to their development and do not pioneer developmental activities for the district.

However, this phenomenon has no solid base and could be termed as an “emotional feeling” towards the district.

Now, let’s look at the needs and priorities of the district per sector.

Needs and Priorities of the district
In the above paragraphs, we noted that Buur Hakaba district has many social, economic and political problems, and should they continue the way they are now, could have great consequences on the well-being and the livelihoods of the local communities.
The problems identified in this study can be grouped per sector as follows:

1.      Water Supply
The biggest challenge of the district is the lack of adequate clean freshwater for both domestic and livestock use. Since time memorial, Bur Hakaba has not had any single well-functioning borehole that has supplied clean water to the residents and the livestock in the district.

Only recently, a borehole was said to have been drilled some 15 km outside the town, but that itself cannot provide an adequate supply and was not of good quality due to salinity.

Residents drink water from water catchments excavated in the Siad Barre time (pre-civil war) which depends on water harvesting during the rainy seasons. These water catchments are at risk of contamination since they are open surface water sources consumed by both humans and animals.

In the Jiilaal season when these water catchments dry up, residents are left with no other choice but to depend only on water trucking from neighbouring districts such as Baidoa, often funded by the community themselves who are critically unable to do so.

The poor in the town who cannot afford the water trucking helplessly seek to find water by digging watershed of a big stream in the town, which does not provide clean water and contributes to diarrheal disease outbreaks in the district during the Jiilaal time (dry season)

The water shortages are worsened by the lack of proper sanitation and community hygiene promotion services in the district. Due to the lack of humanitarian and development actors’ presence in the district, the water problems persist all the time unless water projects are implemented in the district.

It is true that it is difficult to drill a borehole in the town because of the bedrock of the big mountain in the town that lies on a sizable geographic area but that does not mean water could not be supplied to the town from nearby villages, approximately five to ten km using distribution lines and elevated water tanks.

2.      Other Services in the district
The problems are not limited to only the water shortages in the district but touch on a vast array of other services needed by the local populations in the district.

These needs range from infrastructure development such as the main/feeder roads, markets to providing social services such as health and education.

As noted in the introductory part of this article, the communities in the district are agro-pastoralists and depend on agricultural and livestock productions as their main economic stay despite some of the communities do small-scale trade activities.

However, three-fourth of the community members in the district are vulnerable and do not have basic needs met. Their livelihoods activities are limited due to the lack of development and humanitarian interventions in the district.

On the education side, Buur Hakaba is the district that does not have a single higher education institution unlike other districts in Somalia. There are primary and secondary schools in the town initiated by the local people but still lack the right curriculum and quality teachers who are not trained on curriculum development and class management.

On health, the general hospital of the district constructed during the Siad time or before is not currently functioning and does not provide the required services for the communities hit by both conflict and natural disasters.

The only health facility that is now operating in the town is Qatar Charity established hospital (MCH/OPD) that provides medical services to the population in Bur Hakaba. However, it cannot cover the needs of all the residents of this big town let alone outpatients from the rural areas of the district. Medical complications involving expert operations must be transferred to either Mogadishu (180km) or Baidoa (60km) by road keeping in mind the healthcare in danger.

Protection issues are not things that can be easily discovered and discussed here but it is worth noting that the district faces challenging protection issues including Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and protection of civilian populations in times of conflict. As there are no protection agencies on the ground in the district, it can be guessed the protection challenges an underreported community can face.

Conclusion / Recommendations
It is justifiable that Buur Hakaba is located in a contested area with frequent armed clashes and confrontations as some of the humanitarian and development actors in Somalia claim but that does not mean it is completely inaccessible area and a ‘no go’ zone.

Like other districts in Somalia where program interventions are implemented in collaboration with local partners and remotely controlled to reach vulnerable children and women as well as other people with special concerns, the same could be applied to the district.

It is worth noting again that the district is the largest in Bay region geographically and the habitual residence of the populations of 400 villages in the district. These populations need impartial assistance and provision of services that care for their well-being and development.

There are not currently any international organizations/agencies which have offices or operational presence in the district. Ad hoc and short-lived interventions are sometimes made in collaboration with local partners whose program and operational management capacities are not sufficient and capable of effective implementations of the program/project interventions.

It is therefore recommended:
• That humanitarian and development actors be aware of the humanitarian and development needs of this district where many vulnerable people go unreported and miss the impartial assistance
• That the humanitarian and development actors manage to conduct needs assessments in this district using the local capable partners
• That development and program interventions be initiated to reach the vulnerable communities in the district including children, women, female-headed households and people with special concerns
• That the first priority be the availability of sufficient and quality water for the communities in the district while conducting hydogeophysical surveys in the district
• That infrastructure development such as roads including feeder roads and markets are established in the district to improve the livelihoods of the communities in the district
• That the general hospital in the district which is essential for the communities particularly women and children be operationalized to cater for the much-needed health services
• That the Southwest State of Somalia’s leadership finds a solution to the access problem that many people claim hampers the interventions in the region.

Mohamed Yarow

B.A. in Development Studies
B.A. in Public Administration

College Diplomas in Business Studies subjects