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Rogue online forex traders mushrooming in Somalia

Definition

The foreign exchange market or better known as the Forex market is a global decentralized market for the trading of currencies. This market determines foreign exchange rates for every currency. It includes all aspects of buying, selling, and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices.

Basically, forex trading is the buying and selling of currencies against each other.

However, if you are a beginner, be cautious since forex products are complex and very risky, thus not suitable for everyone. One can easily lose all of their invested money if they don’t analyze or have a clue how forex trading works

How forex trading works:

Any interested trader can access the forex market for free through a dealer or commonly known as a broker who offers the trading platform.

The interested party will be required to open a free trading account with the dealer and deposit capital into the account, however, the capital can differ in an amount from time to time which is also determined by the amount of investment sort.

From the trading platform offered by the dealer, a trader is able to access the live market in real-time as it is happening across the globe. From the platform, the trader chooses the items he/she wishes to trade-in based on personal preference, capital size, or risk appetite.

However, it is not only currencies/cash that is traded on the forex trade market as one has the liberty to trade in minerals such as gold and diamond, commodities and indices that are offered in the forex market, albeit under different segments.

From this point, the trader has to analyze the segment he is interested in and choose whether to buy or sell a certain quantity and wait for the market to either follow their analysis where they either make a profit or a loss depending on their analysis.

For investors who have little knowledge of the trading scene, they can choose a broker to work with by checking out online for a tailored recommendation on any forex website and choose the country they are interested in trading.

What makes a good forex broker?

The first and most important quality of a good forex broker has to be fair trading fees and low withdrawal fees. He/she should allow you to deposit funds and withdraw your earnings hassle-free.

The trader should also have a good understanding of the market and that includes the hitches, highs, and lows.

A high level of security is key since you will be handing over thousands of dollars to a person who simply claims he’s legit. One should check the brokers’ credibility through regulatory agencies that separate the trustworthy from the fraudulent.

Forex trade, a booming business in Somalia

The mushrooming of forex traders in Somalia is/was alarming and a cause to worry since many of those conducting the business are not legit or are unregulated.

The situation escalated in 2019 forcing the Central Bank of Somalia to halt and order the closure of Forex trading companies’ accounts in all commercial banks across Somalia. The decision was informed by intelligence that most forex bureaus have been used to cleanse and dispatch illegal money and also encourage money laundering.

“All commercial banks should, with immediate effect surcease bank accounts owned by forex trading companies and submit their names and all monies held in the accounts,” a circular from the Central Bank Governor dated 23rd December 2019 read in part.

The Central Bank also asked the financial institutions not to hold banking accounts for any firms involved in currency trading.

“This is to inform you that the Board of Directors of the Somali Central Bank, in its 43rd session held on 28-10-2019, has issued resolution number 43/G, which directs all private commercial banks in the country to close the accounts of all Foreign Exchange (Forex) traders,” the statement signed by the bank’s Deputy Governor, Maryam Abdullahi Yusuf said.

Crackdown on the forex bureaus

There is currently no regulatory framework governing online forex trading in Somalia, explaining the neck-break speed at which the forex bureaus are mushrooming in cities like Mogadishu, Banadir, Bosaso, and Kisimayu.

Earlier in October 2019, the Somali security forces raided online forex centers in Mogadishu. They raided three offices of a company called Camel Online Forex and directed the immediate closure of their business.

The crackdown did not stop locals trading forex on platforms operated by foreign brokers, which appear to be exploiting regulatory loopholes, notably that their business is based offshore.

However, those in the business insist that not all the apples are rotten. The booming business has attracted thousands of investors especially Somalis living abroad.

According to www.brokerchooser.com, which is the most visited site in Somalia for those interested in forex business, XTB is listed as the top forex brokers in 2020 for Somali citizens.

XTB is a global forex broker with headquarters in London and Warsaw and is regulated by several financial authorities worldwide, including the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). XTB is also listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

Use of social media

With the ever-growing digital space, a great number of sham Forex traders, using sponsored adverts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram, continue to filch millions of hard-earned savings of hapless ‘investors’.

The scammers prey on unsuspecting subscribers by using a number of irresistible adjectives with alluring adverts and fake testimonials that lead the unwary to believe that he/she is dealing with a bonafide, international forex platform.

Fake messages of happiness from, seemingly, relieved ‘investors’ are also posted and shared widely on social media as proof that the schemes work.

Those targeted are mostly Somalis abroad who are lured by bynames in remittance that they trust unreservedly, the likes of Dahabshil, Talk Remit, World Remit, etc. appearing in the list is more than an adequate guarantee to save, quick delivery, which many times is not the case.

Billions of investments go under

A huge percentage of Somalis who invested in quick money schemes fashioned as forex trading companies are yet to recover from the shock that befell them after a number of the companies announced indefinite closure amid what they term as ‘loss of money’.

One such company is Forex 252 in Mogadishu which issued a stark notice to its clients late February 2020 through its manager Mohamed Tahlil. ‘We are very sorry to inform you this but it is necessary to do so. We lost all our money in our account”.

“We had $157,000 for our clients and together with ours, the total was $252,000 and we lost all,’ added Mohamed in a WhatsApp group message to his company’s investors.

Star Media Development Centre, SMDC has established that the story of Forex 252 is just one among others which could be facing a similar fate as fears emerge that what has been going on a forex trade was actually a pyramid scheme.

 

 

 

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Somalia 60th Independence Day

 

Celebrations

At the stroke of midnight and as the calendar turned to 1st of July 2020 biding bye to the month of June, there were ululations as the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia burst into a frenzy. It is the 60th anniversary of its independence.

The celebrations come in the backdrop of clan conflicts, Al Shabaab menace, civil wars not forgetting secessions for Africa’s most culturally-homogeneous country that gained independence on the 1st day of July 1960.

Somalia was colonized by European powers in the 19th century. Britain and Italy established the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland in 1884 and 1889, respectively. These two Somali lands eventually united and gained 60 years ago, today.

Cream de la cream of today’s ceremony was at the heartbeat of Mogadishu where at 12:01 am, the soldiers lead a flag-raising ceremony amid cheers from thousands of locals mostly dressed in blue dresses and macawiis with a visible milk-white star – resembling Somalia’s flag.

It is a big day in Somalia.

Congratulatory messages

The 60th anniversary has been a trending topic on almost all social media outlets with hundreds of contributors wishing nothing but the best to the war-torn county with some openly admiring the resilience of Somalia people, their tribulations notwithstanding.

Among those who poured out their messages was The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan who in a tweet said;

‘As Somalia celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence, the UN in Somalia salutes the courage, resilience and national pride of Somalis over the past six decades, and will remain at their side to provide support as their country progresses’.

It is both a nostalgic and celebratory mood as the Somali people who still hang on hope praying that one day, they will enjoy peace and stability in their motherland.

Strides so far

Apart from the negative stories both on an offline that are told about the country in the horn of Africa, there are more positive stories about her other than the negative ones that have been dominating both local and international headlines.

a). Health care

Healthcare in Somalia is largely in the private sector. It is regulated by the Ministry of Health of the Federal Government of Somalia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower respiratory infections are still the leading cause of deaths in Somalia, followed by diarrhea diseases, measles, malnutrition, tuberculosis, meningitis, and maternal conditions.

Under the stewardship of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the Somalia government has also made good progress in matters of health by heavily investing in hospitals that include; maternity, theatres, clinics, etc. across the region.

According to the official twitter account of Dr. Fawziya Abikar who is the Minister of Health & Social Care- Federal Republic of Somalia, a lot has been achieved under the leadership of Farmajo who has served as the 9th and current President of Somalia since 16 February 2017.

“Great pleasure to see rehabilitated delivery rooms of Banadir Mother &Child hospital- Mogadishu. Monthly, an average of 400 to 500 women delivers there with zero cost. Duty to provide basic rights of women.” She said in a tweet an hour before the stroke of midnight.

b). Social services

A decade ago, who would have thought a football tournament would be hosted in Somalia? Worst still Mogadishu? Many would have dismissed it as a bad distant dream.

But today, the Somalia government celebrated the reopening of Mogadishu Soccer Stadium with the first kick-off match in 16 years. The reopening ceremony was led by President Farmajo who said;

“When I Last visited our ruined historic Stadium Mogadishu; the words ‘Dal waliba dadkiisa dhisaa’ written, instilled hopes and belief in our Somali spirit to revive it. We are all very proud to see Mogadishu Stadium restored by the sweat and sacrifice of our people and partners”.

The situation has been replicated in other provinces that include but not limited to; Hargeisa, Banaadir, Bosaso lower and middle Shebelle, and Gedo.

Social media pages are also awash with well-captured images of youths playing football at the beach while some result in swimming as they unwind.

c). Education

It is believed that a nation that invests in its citizens’ education, will forever prosper. Maybe this is the reason for mushrooming of both primary, secondary, tertiary, and universities across Somalia.

Among the best performing universities in Somalia includes; Jaamacadda Camuud (Amoud University) is located in the urban setting of the small city of Borama, Princeton International University and Aden Adde International University both in Banaadir, Mogadishu University, University of Hargeisa, Jobkey University, Benadir University and Eelo University among many others.

“The commitment, zeal, and determination shown by the Somali Prime Minister is the foundation of successes and realization of impressive outcomes that we are witnessing despite the myriad of challenges facing the country”. Commented Alinur Salad who is the Director of Media and Information in the office of the Prime Minister during the inauguration of the newly rehabilitated Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

d). Peace and stability

Backed by the AU and international donors, Somalia has gradually succeeded in building a working political system and government institutions, hosted around the fortified Green Zone area in Mogadishu’s international airport.

Attempts to bring peace to Somalia have seen several interim civilian regimes installed between 1991 and 2000. The Transitional Federal Government established in 2004 eventually managed to assume control of most of the nation’s southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union.

The international community maintains a presence in the country through various non-governmental organizations supported by the UN, UKAID among others that have been helping nearly five million Somalis that rely on food aid to survive.

AMISOM too has also deployed its soldiers in a quest to quell the Al Shabab menace. The United States is one of the key security partners in Somalia, along with Turkey, and is now playing a crucial role in helping Somalia build a strong national army.

According to this year’s UN country report on Somalia, although the security situation remains volatile, the number of civilian casualties has generally decreased despite Al-Shabaab’s increased high-profile attacks.

However, diaspora communities have over the years remitted cash back home as they invest in rebuilding the shattered state.

From Star Media Development Centre, Happy 60th Independence Day Somalia!

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World Refugee Day 2020

This years’ World Refugee Day was marked in low keys across the globe as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions that have totally shut down and crippled the globe – literally.

The event, held on 20 June each year, was designated by the United Nations to honor the courage, determination, and resilience of millions of those who have been forced to abandon their homes and flee persecution and conflict.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2019, at least 79.5 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide.

Why is World Refugee Day important?

World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights, needs, and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilize political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive and hence the activities held on World Refugee Day create opportunities to support refugees.

History of the celebrations

World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.

Since its inception, the United Nations and more than 100 countries have observed World Refugee Day annually on June 20th.

Statistics

According to the latest statistics on the UNHCR website, there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world. More than 21 million of these people are refugees and 10 million are stateless.

On average, 42,500 people per day flee their homes to seek protection within the borders of their own country or other countries. In the last year alone, there have been 13.9 million people newly displaced.

86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries. This number has jumped by 16% in the last decade. Refugees only account for a tiny percentage of overall immigration.

The world’s largest refugee camp is located in Dadaab, Kenya, which is home to more than 329,000 people. The camp has been threatened with closures due to potential security risks.

Of the 20 million refugees worldwide, 51% are under the age of 18. This is the highest number of child refugees since World War II.

Low Key celebrations

Compared to the usual pomp and color that is always witnessed during this annual celebration, 2020 has been different from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR taking to social media to urge the World to stand with the refugees under the hashtag #WithRefugees.

Under the hashtag, the UN Refugee Agency managed to amplify and engage the public with its global public advocacy campaign for human rights, equal opportunity, and observance of the right to a decent life for every human being.

In observance of the laid down precautions by the World Health Organization, WHO, the ceremony this year was not held in the camps and public barazas across the nation where Human Rights activists, government officials, and even the refugees get an opportunity to deliver their messages and action plan.

Dadaab and Kakuma camps

In Kenya, the largest refugee camps i.e. Dadaab and Kakuma both in North Eastern Kenya, the marking of the World Refugees Day 2020 were marked with campaigns aimed at highlighting the dangers of COVID-10 and ways of prevention.

The health workers from different umbrella organizations went around the camps explaining the importance of wearing facemasks while in public, washing hands regularly, and maintaining the 1.5-meter social distancing rule by WHO.

“Being the World Refugee Day – an important moment to highlight the risks of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Refugees are particularly at risk of COVID-19 because they often have limited access to adequate shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation, and health services. We have a shared duty to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to the transmission of COVID-19 among refugee populations”-said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who is the World Health Organization Director-General in his message to the world.

He further urged governments to help in reducing and flattening the curves of the Coronavirus infections adding that refugees are among the most vulnerable considering their locality and lack of proper health facilities to cater to the patients.

 

 

 

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Somalia’s COVID-19 response; a change to online learning

Introduction
Schooling from home or remote learning has been adopted by various governments and states across the world as a measure to contain and control the spread of Covid-19.
Somalia too joined the bandwagon as schools made a fast transition to remote learning amid the outbreak of the Coronavirus crisis as nations came up with directives to curb further infections. It is a move that has been a decidedly mixed success depending on the ability of a student to access the learning materials away from a physical classroom.
Worst hit is the lower primary pupils followed by this in higher education institutions like; Mogadishu University and SIMAD University, the campus of Plasma University in Mogadishu that has more than 4,000 students and 170 people on the teaching faculties.
In this feature story, we breakdown on Somalia’s ability to sustain effectively remote learning by checking its internet connectivity, views from students, education experts, and even teachers who carry the task to deliver effective learning to hundreds of students.
What really happened in remote learning?
Education experts say that remote learning is not new in the western countries since learning institutions have been carrying out revisions/assignments from the online platform thanks to high-speed internet connectivity within their homes.
Basically, a teacher sets homework or exams before sharing them through an internet portal, and the students once complete, returns using the same medium for marking and assessment. It works mostly during the holiday period.
At times, the teacher can engage all the students at a go through video calls or share learning materials through a common portal accessed by all those targeted.

Somalia’s internet connectivity
Somalia established its first ISP in 1999, one of the last countries in Africa to get connected to the Internet. However, growth in internet connectivity has since then grown considerably, with around 53% of the entire nation covered as of 2009.
The situation was expected to be much better following the passing of the National Communications Law in October 2017, aimed at setting a legal and regulatory framework for the telecoms sector.
The Law made provision for a National Communications Agency charged with encouraging market competition and overseeing the use of ICTs in promoting economic development. A Director for the Agency was appointed in February 2018.
Consequently, Somalia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to provide many improved services, though international bandwidth remains very limited.

Online schooling in Somalia
Since the beginning of the pandemic, various schools in Somalia have gone to great lengths to provide their students with digital services to make remote learning a success.
However, those benefiting are the once in major towns like Mogadishu and Bosaso where they can access high-speed internet connectivity within their confines.
This means that those students in remote areas who cannot afford the internet have already fallen behind academically over the past several months, and will only further trail their better-connected classmates.

Reality on ground
SMDC’s reporter in Somalia conducted a one on one interview with one of the teachers’ in Mogadishu, Mr. Ciise and he started by asking the impact of Covid-19 to the learning institutions in Somalia.
“It is a challenging if not frustrating task since not all of our students come from an able family that has stable or internet at home. This pandemic has made it difficult to continue with the normal class lessons hence we have resulted in sharing learning materials online”, he said.
During the interview, the teacher reminds us of in 2018 when the internet services were disrupted in the whole country (Somalia) after a ship cut the undersea internet cables. He says those affected were students in colleges and universities since most of their work is research-based and assignments submitted online to their lecturers.

Challenges faced by teachers
From the interview, SMDC established the huge challenge teachers have to go through to ensure uniformity among all the students as they progress academically.
“Some of the students have caught up with the new model, however, some who are the majority are not. For example, I can send out a lesson to all the students but three days later, a student will tell you they didn’t receive the learning materials”, a frustrated Mr. Ciise reveals.
With the prospect of schools having to continue with remote learning in some fashion for the 2020-21 school year, these students’ lack of high-speed connectivity will continue to be a major issue, and it must be addressed soonest.
Poor coordination
Another major challenge he says is a lack of coordination since all the students are at their homes engaged in different activities.
“Unlike when we are in class, where I can monitor class attendance and concentration, things are different when we are using soft wares like ZOOM to teach our students.
Once you start your lesson, you establish that not all students are logged in, and even those privileged to be online, have different engagements; some will be in their bedrooms, the girls will be cooking while others will complain of slow internet connectivity in their home”. Said Mr. Ciise.
Internet security
The teachers in Somalia are also afraid that the modern technology is not safe at all since intruders can take advantage of the situation. Users of soft wares such as Skype and ZOOM always face a threat of leaked passwords and hacker hijacking video calls midway through conferences.
Also, some of the pupils complained of the poor, unpredictable video quality saying most of the time the videos are often blurry and pixelated and at times the audio quality can deteriorate. Some also argued that soft wares are not user friendly.
Timeliness
Mr. Ciise says getting all the students to order for a lesson has not been a walk in the park.“Recently, I had an online class, once I logged into the video chat, I saw student lying on his bed, another one in the kitchen cooking, they are not paying attention to the ongoing class. Some would even log out and then later claim they didn’t see my messages because they were offline. It is frustrating”, he said,
Poverty
SMDC has established that poverty is a major contributing factor to the success of online schooling since not all students come from an able background.
The teacher revealed that most of the students cannot afford smartphones or the internet in their homes hence will never catch up with those who can afford it. It is a delicate balance but they are forced to go on with those who can afford in order to complete the school calendar curriculum.
Exams cheating
The teachers agree unanimously that they cannot curb cheating in exams or assignments with the students learning from home. It is next to impossible since the teacher cannot follow up on almost all the students to establish if they are cheating or not.
It is precedence that many education experts are afraid will greatly affect the quality of education not only in Somalia but across the globe.

The way forward?
Mr. Ciise believes the whole weight lies in the shoulders of the federal system and time to act is now since all indicators show that the Covid-19 pandemic will be with us for some months to come.
“If the federal system comes up with the right decision it can be managed, and avail free internet to anyone who can pay for their computer in small portions (hire purchase) and the education system will be sustained”, he suggested.
There is also a need to come up with educational apps that will be loaded on to the laptops of both students and lecturers, and the latter provided with training on virtual teaching.

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COVID-19 a disaster in waiting for IDPs in Somalia

The total number of Covid-19 infections across the world stands at 7.1 million as of June 9th, 2020 at 01:57 GMT according to the Worldometer website, with Somalia contributing 2,368 of the cases.

Health experts warn that the pandemic poses a substantial threat considering the large population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia with 2.6 million in displacement camps across the country, half of them in Mogadishu.
The rest are scattered in IDP sites in Hargeisa, Doolow, Baidoa, Kismayo, Banadir-Deynile, and Banadir-Khada.
However, with only 84 deaths so far, the escalating number of infections can be controlled if at all those in the camps will adhere to the laid down guidelines by World Health Organization that includes but not limited to; sanitizing, washing hands regularly, maintaining social distancing and above all always wearing a facemask in public.
Somalia has the second-highest number of positive cases in East and Horn of Africa. Although the majority of the cases are in the Banadir region, the number reported in other parts of the country is increasing. Cases continue to be under-reported, and according to WHO, the actual rates are likely to be higher.

IDPs among the most vulnerable

The conditions in IDP camps in Somalia lack the much-needed prerequisites in preventing Covid-19 infections which can spread like bushfire considering the circumstances in the camps. Apart from the old and sickly, the IDPs are now clustered among the vulnerable groups in the Coronavirus menace.
SMDC has established that the camps especially in Mogadishu lack health care facilities, sanitation, and washing facilities which is indeed a breeding ground for the spread of the deadly virus that has claimed 408,615 lives across the globe – by the time of going to press.
The raging floods witnessed in late May this year in parts of Somalia have made the Covid-19 situation in some of the IDP camps more unbearable. Several families were displaced on the outskirts of Beletweyn town in southern Somalia’s Hiran region. Over 250 families were affected at the Halane camp forcing the IDPs to seek temporary shelter elsewhere.
Heavy flooding, conflict, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms, and the exponential spread of COVID-19 are threatening the safety and welfare of Somalia’s 2.6 million internally displaced people.
”At the start of this year, more than 220,000 Somalis have become internally displaced, including 137,000 due to conflict, natural and climate-related disasters including drought and resulting lack of livelihoods and floods are additional complex and interlinked drivers of displacement,” UNHCR reported in May 2020.
According to the latest research on Covid-19 response assessment in risk communication and community engagement in IDP sites in Somalia, conducted by Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM) partners and IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), most of the IDPs lack the much needed basic knowledge on Covid-19.
As per their findings, the vast majority of IDPs respondents have heard of COVID-19 with 98% acknowledging the importance of preventing the virus’ transmission within targeted communities.
However, 35% of respondents in Kahda and 29% of respondents in Deynile expressed not knowing anything about the disease.
Also, COVID-19 misinformation appears highest in Kismayo and Hargeisa as the majority of participants believe that COVID-19 is transmitted through mosquito bites or blood transfusion.
48% of those interviewed depend on Radio as a source of information on Covid-19, 46% on humanitarian aid workers (46%) while the rest depend on Facebook, SMS, and TV for obtaining COVID-19 information.

Mitigations
Various efforts have contributed to containing the spread of the Covid-19 in Somalia resulting in 470 recovery cases so far. Health experts warn that the situation could have been worse.

Donations
Various measures have been put in place by several NGOs including the different arms of the United Nations in Somalia that have committed to work with the authorities to ensure the needs of the internally displaced persons are addressed.
From such interventions, the IDPs have received food and cash donations with some benefiting from livelihood opportunities that have strengthened their social protection networks.
According to an official statement from UNHCR, over 8,600 persons have already received unconditional cash grants to restore their livelihood. Among them are hundreds of returnees and displaced persons who have lost their employment due to the pandemic.

Moratorium on evictions
It is no doubt that the evictions of vulnerable individuals especially IDPs, refugees, and returnees can represent an even greater threat.
According to statistics by UNHCR, over 64,000 persons have been forced to leave their homes as a result of evictions this year alone and hence the organization has been working with the Federal Government for a nationwide moratorium on evictions during the period of response to COVID-19.
Ventilators
IOM has been lauded for providing ventilators to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients in Mogadishu and the larger Somalia. The machines were handed over to the Federal Government of Somalia earlier this month.
However, the nine ventilators are a drop in the ocean considering the increasing number of infections in Somalia plus the slow rate of testing for the Covid-19.
Already an Intensive Care Unit has been set up at the De Martino Hospital, which is Somalia’s main public hospital designated by the country’s Ministry of Health to cater to Coronavirus cases.
“We appreciate the crucial support provided by The International Organization for Migration, IOM, Somali Humanitarian Fund, SHF and all other partners working with the Federal Government of Somalia to contain the spread COVID-19 and to provide life-saving treatment to our people,” said Dr. Fawziya Abikar Nur, Minister for Health and Human Services. During the handover ceremony held at the hospital.
Isolation facilities
For a country with an extremely fragile health care system, much needs to be done to arrest the situation considering that the present infrastructure is not sufficient to sustain a major outbreak.
The setting up of isolation facilities is commendable as it has helped mitigate the exposure of the virus since the first case was reported in Somalia on March 16 this year.
Capacity buildings/campaigns
The Ministry of Health in Somalia in conjunction with IOM have launched a campaign dabbed #SomaliaReponds that aims to raise USD 100,000 to buy medical equipment and supplies for De Martino Hospital and other medical facilities across the country
IOM has also pledged to continue with such campaigns aimed at elevating the health care system in Somalia. “We will continue supporting the health authorities in Somalia to ensure that no one is left behind in the COVID-19 response,” said Richard Danziger, Chief of Mission for IOM Somalia.
UNHCR awareness
So far, over 242,000 persons have been informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, including about prevention and recommended actions if an individual is symptomatic.
260 IDP leaders have already received training to increase their capacity to prevent and respond to COVID-19 concerns in their IDP sites. They are now raising awareness in their IDP sites about COVID-19.
Emergency hotlines
Since the pandemic, UNHCR has continued to run 10 phone lines that persons in need can use to request assistance or get more information about COVID-19.
The establishment has been lauded since it reduces face-to-face contact and viral transmission.
Somali National Army
The Somali National Army has come in handy in the distribution of face masks as well as sensitization of the masses on the effects of Covid-19.
The soldiers have helped demystify a belief among the Somalis that they cannot be infected with the virus and as a result, highly boosted to the national effort to make sure the public understands that the virus is real and is vigilant against it.
This SNA campaign is being conducted with the support of the Somali Federal Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Conclusion
From the above, it is evident that a lot needs to be put in place to help fight the increasing number of infections of Covid-19, especially in the IDP camps.
The situation can only get worse considering the acute challenges that the groups faced prior to the onslaught of Covid-19 that included perennial displacement due to conflict and environmental factors.
The international community needs to come forward with further funding for humanitarian agencies and the government of Somalia considering that going by their numbers, the IDPs cannot practice physical and social distancing, lack of enough clean water for drinking, let alone hand-washing, etc.
There is a need for diversifying the methods employed at the circulation of Covid-19 messaging in IDP camps with Radio remaining the best and most efficient if not instant mode of communication. This includes Radio Gargaar that communicates in the local dialect and takes in questions from the listeners and in the process help enlighten the masses on Covid-19 effects.

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Is farming the next frontier?

It is believed that agriculture is the foundation of any stable economy across the globe. A nation that cannot feed its people is always considered a poor if not failed state.

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy. It is the single most important sector in the economy, contributing approximately 25% of the GDP, and employing 75% of the national labor force.

Farming in North Eastern

Northern Kenya has a huge potential to claim the ‘breadbasket’ of Kenya’s title but sadly remains unexploited due to the long-held stereotypical thinking that North Eastern Kenya is a barren land that is not worthy of any massive investment like large scale farming.

Harnessing this potential would improve the livelihoods of the local people and, the region can feed the growing market for agricultural produce and livestock products in the Horn of Africa. However, all is not lost since the pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya are gradually adopting crop irrigation as an alternative source of livelihood.

For a region that experiences perennial drought, large-scale investment in desert agriculture is the only proactive and sustainable option for insulating the locals against the negative effects of drought.

Due to the warm weather, most crops like oranges and onions cannot be affected by diseases like blight, which are prevalent in areas with cold weather or heavy rainfall.

Changing trends

“When we were growing up, the term ‘crop farming’ was unheard of across the Northern region since our parents were nomadic pastoralists whereby they practiced a form of animal husbandry as they moved with their herds”, says 43-year-old Mohammed Hashi who was born and bred in Wajir County.

He says until the millennium; crop farming was unpracticed and attributes the new culture to frequent, prolonged, and devastating droughts.

“I remember my dad lost all the goats and several camels he was raring during a drought period in 2003. It was so severe that all the communities in Wajir County and the larger North Eastern lost their only source of livelihood — livestock farming. That was our turning point as a community” Hashi, a former community development major student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JKUAT added.

Livestock farming no longer tenable

With frequent, prolonged, and devastating effects of the drought occasioned by climate change, pastoralists’ communities are fast losing grip of their only source of livelihood, livestock, thus forcing the majority of them to seek alternative sources of revenue.

The situation has not been easy for some of the residents who have at last partnered with various organizations including the Kenya Red Cross Society with the main aim of achieving food security.

The pilot projects of farming in the North-Eastern region were in an area called Kulan in Daadab Sub-county. Over 200 horticultural farmers were recruited and presently, they are role models to many of the locals who are slowly but gradually shunning their nomadic way of life to farming.

Agriculturally, Garissa, and Mandera counties have the potential of producing the best bananas, lemons, watermelons, pawpaws, mangoes, tomatoes, millet, onions, and cassava.

The existence of River Tana which is the longest river in Kenya, snaking through Garissa County and River Dawa in Mandera makes farming prospects for an agrarian revolution in the region feasible.

Home of sweetest fruits/vegetables

It is believed that one cannot compare the sweetness of the watermelon is grown in Garissa to any other grown in other parts of Kenya.

Kulan area used to be dry but presently booms with fruits and vegetables that include large onions, watermelons, cowpeas and beans that are not only consumed locally but also sold to other counties. Thanks to irrigation that was made possible from interventions by various NGO’s in the region.

Under the project, farmers get free piped water from a solar-powered borehole that is then irrigated into the farms on alternative days. The borehole also provides water for livestock and household use.

Star Media Development Centre, SMDC spoke to the Kenya Red Cross Northeastern manager Mohamed Abdikadir who said the 20-acre farm in Kulan is one of the pilot projects in the area being pursued and aims at achieving food security, a critical pillar of the national government’s Big Four agenda.

“If well exploited, this climate-smart project will greatly change the economic wellbeing of the locals here. This is the next frontier”, he said.

Most of the farmers have expressed their joy in the project saying at least they now can afford fresh farm produce for their families plus a few coins in their pockets throughout the year from selling what they sow.

“I have been growing watermelons for the last three years, the crop does well in this region and I do two seasons a year thanks to the irrigation scheme run by the county government of Garissa which uses water from Tana River,” said 38-year-old Haile Omar.

Rice farming

Many years ago, no one would have believed that rice farming in Wajir could yield anything.

When Hussein Keynan was first approached by a local NGO with the idea, he almost laughed it off as a bad joke. Several years down the line, Keynan is a renowned rice supplier in the larger Wajir region after utilizing his two acres of land.

“After harvesting my rice, I use rice straws, after threshing, as livestock feed to reduce feed cost and increase livestock survival. I am no longer scared of the dry spell period. I also grind the rice and feed my family with porridge rice which is more nutritious especially to kids” said the proud farmer who is afraid of not being able to meet the huge demand for rice among pastoralist communities around Wajir County and its environs.

Benefits of farming in Northern Kenya

With its virgin arable lands, agriculturalists say North Eastern Counties in Kenya have a great potential in turning around the real meaning of a breadbasket region in the country.

Apart from being a source of food to the host communities, farming can also provide fodder for their animals and hence reduce conflicts witnessed over water and pasture considering that some herders had been moving to neighboring counties to feed their hundreds of livestock.

Farming can also minimize school dropout cases during the dry seasons as is the case presently. Most of the school-going kids result in staying at home due to the effects of hunger while some do so after the schools that provide free lunch run out of supplies.

Most of the women who would idle around are now financially stable after joining various women groups like Halimau Women Group in Wajir that do farming in greenhouses and sell the product before sharing the profits as a group.

The script is the same in Mandera where a group of women under the leadership of Zahra Bashir a Chief Officer, Livestock, and Fisheries is making a kill from a fish farming project where they harvest catfish in hatcheries both for consumption and selling.

Role of county governments

With the devolved systems of government in place, it is the perfect opportunity for the county governments to fully exploit irrigation farming and in the process uplift the livelihoods of the northerners.

Food security is one of the big four agenda of the Jubilee government should largely concentrate on the small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas by providing modern farming equipment to small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas since their efforts contribute to food security initiatives.

County governments should be in a position to introduce modern farming technology, adequate of inputs and subsidies in farm input costs (fertilizer, pesticides, and seeds), small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas will prosper in the changing farming environment globally and locally.

A special focus has been put in place for the farmers in Northern Kenya especially after the National government with the support of the World Bank, launched a $1 billion North and Northeastern Development Initiative (NEDI) to increase investments in transformative and integrated infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods in Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot counties.

“You don’t expect to do things the same way, year after a year and expect positive results,” Garissa Governor Ali Korane was quoted urging the pastoralist communities early this year adding that farming seems to be the way out for the communities that for years were known to be nomadic.

Sabukar Gisomo who is an Extension Officer in Wajir County says they have embraced the use of shade-nets or greenhouses supplied with constant borehole water that is used for drip irrigation with some evaporated into the air to create cooling and humidification  excellent growing conditions for agriculture

Way forward

With all the aforementioned, technically with good leadership and investment, the northerners can feed Kenya without straining.

This has been proven in Israel and Egypt – countries that have similar if not worse soil and climatic conditions to northern Kenya.

Over the years, Israel has been exporting fish, vegetables, and fruits to other nations after producing them from the Negev desert. Egypt on the other hand is known for its quality oranges, strawberries, onions, and basil from the Judean desert that its thirst is quenched by River Nile.

It can be done; it must be done.

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FGM fading away in North Eastern Kenya

 

“I cannot let my two daughters go through what I went through before I got married. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is barbaric and inhuman…” says Faiza Hussien who was born in the Habaswein area of Wajir County 28 years ago.

She currently resides in Nairobi where she is married after her first marriage failed terribly due to FGM related issues.

Sadly, Faiza is among hundreds of women from the North-Eastern region who have knowingly or unknowingly gone through infibulation at a tender age which usually involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can cause a host of serious health problems, according to researches done both locally and the United Nations.

In as much as those who encourage the practice involve religion in the whole process, Muslim scholars say the argument holds no water since FGM/C is purely a cultural issue.

To better understand this topic, SMDC has interviewed a victim of FGM/C, an Imam, two health practitioner, and an anti-FGM/C campaigner.

Latest Statistics

According to the latest statistics by the United Nations Population Fund, the prevalence of FGM for women in Kenya aged 15 to 49 fell from 32% in 2013 to 28% in 2018. This is good news according to Yusuf Mohammed who is the sole male anti-FGM crusader in Garissa County.

Before FGM was outlawed in Kenya, the practice was most prevalent among ethnic Somalis, a community where 94% of women had undergone it according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

Why is FGM practiced?

Among the Northerners, Female circumcision is discussed in hushed tones in as much as it is widely practiced in 3 out of 5 homes. But why? Reasons used to sustain the practice relate to religious obligation, family honor, and virginity as a prerequisite for marriage.

A major contributing factor to FGM is the men in such communities who insist that they cannot marry someone who hasn’t undergone the cut. Some of the girls who survived the cut get divorced once their husbands realize they didn’t undergo FGM/C.

To some, the cut is part of their ‘rich culture’, and abandoning it, is diverting from the norm and that is why in some instances, Somali families even in the developed countries travel back home to have their daughters circumcised before the age of 10.

Women’s education may also have a spurious correlation with women’s FGM/C rates, particularly in areas where cutting occurs at early ages before a girl has completed her education

Among the Somalis, female genital cutting remains a deeply rooted cultural practice that is widely supported.

“For instance, I underwent a procedure known as Gudma firown, in which the outer parts of the female genitalia are chopped off and the vagina is sewn up, leaving only a small passage for urine and menstrual blood,” says Faiza Hussein.

The Somali community from which she comes from, greatly believes that the cutting enables girls to remain sexually pure until marriage hence containing promiscuity among the young girls.

“It is a very painful process since no anesthesia is used and even those who do the cutting are not medical experts neither do they practice hygiene during the process.

It gets worse when one starts her menstruation. I would miss school and cry all day behind the house because of extensive pain adds Faiza.

Anti-FGM crusaders

Yusuf is a renowned household name in Garissa and beyond in as far as FGM matters are concerned.

“I vividly remember seeing my older sister suffer from the effects of female genital mutilation at a tender age. It is not something I would want anyone, not even my enemy go through. That is how I started my own anti-FGM crusade.

Alhamdulillah, I have made strides in my campaigns and managed to convince hundreds of my people to turn away from the practice, despite intense opposition from local elders and even relatives.” says Yusuf.

Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties continue to witness the practicing of FGM that have prevalence rates of over 90% with the crusaders alluding to the fact that lack of funds, insecurity has hampered their campaigns, especially in remote locations.

Government to end FGM by 2022?

Despite the Kenyan government outlawing the practice 9 years ago, FGM/C has continued to be practiced in some communities especially in the North where it is believed it is necessary for social acceptance and increases marriage prospects.

“Kenya commits to eliminate female genital mutilation by 2022,” President Uhuru Kenyatta told a global summit on sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of a series of commitments made by his administration.

During the three-day conference held at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, KICC, Uhuru added that; “Kenya will eliminate all forms of gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030 through the strengthening of coordination mechanisms and by addressing cultural norms that propagate these practices”.

The summit was attended by more than 6,000 participants – including heads of state, government ministers, financial institutions, donors, and civil society groups from 160 nations.

What does the law say?

In 2011, the National Assembly passed a law that specifically criminalized FGM. Under this legislation, ‘anyone who conducts FGM, who pays someone else to perform the practice either in Kenya or abroad, or who provides premises to carry it out, is guilty of an offense. Possession of instruments used in FGM is outlawed, as is failing to report the act’.

Either, according to the provisions in the Kenyan Constitution, ‘Anyone convicted of these offenses can go to prison for between three and seven years, and be fined 500,000 Kenyan shillings. If a girl dies as a result of FGM, those responsible can be convicted of murder.

However, according to the 2018 report on FGM by Kenya’s inspector general of police that was made public by Joseph Boinnet, there were relatively few convictions of those who were found capable of practicing, sponsoring, or aiding FGM in Kenya.

Also, between 2011 and 2014, a total of 71 cases were taken to court. Of those, only 16 resulted in convictions. There were 18 acquittals, four cases were withdrawn, and 33 are pending.

DPP’s take on FGM/C convictions

The office of the Director of Prosecution in Kenya, Noordin Haji continues to face challenges in their effort to prosecute the perpetrators main reason being lack of evidence.

Christine Nanjala who is a State Prosecutor and headed the FGM unit in Haji’s office, says most of the offenders have not been brought to justice since the greatly rely on the victims to report the crimes.

Either, the prosecution department always has a difficult time persuading witnesses to testify in cases where minors are involved.

Naivety and lack of knowledge of the minors have also been a major setback in the prosecution of such cases since the victims don’t view FGM/C as a crime.

Either, most of the time, the clans that practice FGM/C are closely knitted that they can never reveal those who practice it, and hence the State needs more intelligence officers on ground to gather information on the same.

Health experts take on FGM

“Female Genital Mutilation and or Cutting poses a significant health risk that is beyond the psychological consequences of undergoing pain, trauma, and mutilation,” says Doctor Jane Shisoka, a medic at the Agha Khan University in Nairobi.

“septicemia, urine retention, anemia, cysts, keloid scar, vulval abscess, pelvic infections, infertility, fistula, menstrual disorders, and vulvar ulcers are some of the post effects if the practice.” She says.

His sentiments are echoed by Dr. Ahmed Hussein, a gynecologist at Karen Hospital in Nairobi who added that apart from the trauma, the victims may at times suffer from infection, heighten dangers associated with childbirth such as hemorrhaging, and most but not least denies women their sexual rights.

“In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. It can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula and fatal childbirth complications” added Dr. Ahmed.

After the cut, a girl’s legs are tied up tightly for 2 weeks or more so that scar tissue essentially ‘seals her up’, leaving only a small hole for the passage of urine and menses. Many girls emerge from it psychologically scarred as well. Wedding nights are often a nightmare.

Medically, victims of FGM/C undergo pain due to the obstruction of the vaginal opening, which may lead to bleeding during sexual intercourse, childbirth complications, and obstetric fistula. In some cases, women have to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.

De-linking FGM/C from Islam

In the Holy Qoran, no verse speaks about circumcision of females. Islam calls for the circumcision of men but not women.

“It is just ignorance of those who decide to practice FGM/C hiding under religion (sunnah). This is purely a cultural practice and remains at that. If you read the whole Qoran you will agree with me that those who argue that FGM/C is Islamic are liars” weighed in Shiekh Mohammed Abdullahi.

 

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Somalia fish market, a non-starter

Somalia, a country with the longest coastline in Africa accessing the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden with a length of 3,330 km but sadly remains the country’s most untapped resource. If well exploited, the fish market in Somalia alone can help in achieving global and national sustainable food security plus generate national income from international trade.

For a country that has witnessed civil war and still facing instability, the coastline would have been exploited to provide both selves and paid employment from aquaculture related activities and hence alleviating the youth from abysmal poverty.

The Somali waters are known for; Yellowfin tuna, Bigeye tuna, Skipjack tuna, Cephalopodan, Tropical Spiny lobster, Swordfish, Albacore, and Sharks among other fish that fetch high market prices.

Staple food

It is argued that the main reason why the Somali waters that is home to some of the richest fishing grounds in Africa remain untapped today is that, fish is not a staple food among the local communities despite it being culturally acceptable and considered halal.

Part of Somalia having being colonized by Italians, culturally developed a habit of eating spaghetti, locally known as pasta, rice (baris), and red meat preferably camel meat that is popular for both its meat and milk, which they believe is more nutritious than cow or goat milk. And anytime is tea time. Somali shaah redolent with spices.

All these are contributing factors of having the coastline underutilized and hence making the fish market in Somalia a real non-starter.

Mitigation

However, over the years, various organizations have tried to change the scenario with the aim of changing the lives of the locals including sensitization of the health benefits of fish and its products as an alternative to the norm.

Among the organizations is the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO with the support of the European Union, that for years has been registering thousands of fishermen who operate off the shores of Puntland.

According to information made public on its website, FAO says; ‘The exercise which is done through a biometrics system, encapsulates vital personal information of each fisherman, including photographs and fingerprints. This information will then be used to develop special identity cards which will be carried by the fishermen while at sea.

It will also act as a critical database for the Ministry of Fisheries, security and anti-piracy forces (both local and international) and local fishermen associations as they gather data on the exact number and location of fisherfolk in the area’.

Through that initiative launched 3 years ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization has been able to provide the Somali Fisheries Ministry with the necessary software for registering the fishermen. It has also provided training, financial and supervisory support to both the fishermen and the ministry officials.

Challenges facing the fishing industry in Somalia

Foreign vessels’ theft

Most of the fishermen in Somalia especially Bosaso and Puntland where the precious Tuna and Marlin fish are caught, expressed their displeasure by the fact that they cannot compete with the large foreign boats and ships that troll their waters catching almost all the fishes both deep sea and close to the shores.

SMDC spoke to the Director Seafarers’ Assistance Programme Mr. Andrew Mwangura who confirmed that the foreign fishing ships have been a major challenge facing the fishing sector in the larger Somalia coastline.

“The foreign ships sail from as far as Iran taking advantage of the instability of Somalia government hence cannot be controlled. This is not illegal fishing but looting on an industrial scale’, said Mwangura.

“The local fishermen have small motorboats and canoes hence can only fish a certain amount of fish for consumption and or for retail. The few foreign vessels that are licensed to fish in the Somalia waters get their fishing permits under questionable if not dubious means from Somalia government officials” he added.

Insecurity

Although the situation has changed drastically for the better, a percentage of the fishermen still feel insecure hence have not gone full-blown in their fishing activities.

A decade ago, before insurgents took over, pirates were causing havoc to both foreign and local fishing vessels. The pirates would attack and hijack especially oil and other commercial ships before demanding millions of shillings as ransom.

“The situation was terrible. At one go, you would have close to 20 foreign ships, sailors hijacked by the pirates off the Horn of Africa, and who stood their ground on millions of dollars as ransom. They made a killing”, says Mwagura who is also a negotiator between pirates and ship owners off the coast of Africa.

However, things have since changed after the international community intervened plus efforts by the local navies including the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which guards the waters off Bosaso.

Technology/skills/gear

With emerging trends, local fishermen in Somalia have found it difficult to cope with their counterparts using foreign boats that are larger and have modern technology.

The foreign boast can do deep sea and in one round, can collect tons of fish since they have longer and modern nets for fishing.

The locals lack fishing skills required to go deep sea to fish for commercial purposes. They also lack fishing gear to enable make their tasks a success.

Poor sanitation/markets

Apart from the fishing challenges in the larger Somalia, lack of a proper market and storage facilities have been associated with the current situation. A good example is the Bosaso Port that lacks modern equipment e.g. refrigerators to prepare fish in a clean, healthy environment for export.

Somalia also lacks a strong and dependable system for exporting Somali fish overseas.

Political instability

Amid the power vacuum, illegal foreign fishers have taken advantage of the situation and have since undermined the Somali coastal by driving unfair and unmanaged competition for finite natural resources.

This has in turn resulted in illegal trawling hence destroying sensitive habitats. With unregulated fishing, the stocks have reduced drastically making fishing a non-economic activity.

Economic goodwill

Most of the actions taken by the Somalia government on matters fishing have done more harm than good to the sector.

A year ago, Somalia granted fishing licenses to 31 Chinese vessels to exploit tuna and tuna-like species off its coast in a bid to tap the sector for economic growth. The vessels are associated with the China Overseas Fisheries Association.

However, the foreign fishing vessels were also not to be permitted to operate between 24 nautical miles (44 kilometers) to the seaward side of the Somali baseline

Lack of knowledge

A Voxpops by SMDC revealed that most of the Somali community members have minimal knowledge or equipment on how to cook and preserve fish with some saying eating the meat while separating the bones is hectic.

Efforts so far

Despite the current situation, various efforts are still in place to change the scenario including media publicity and NGOs sensitizing the locals on the importance of fishing for commercial gains, nutritional values, and as alternative food in the emerging food security crisis.

FAO has been training youths on deep-sea fishing, provided better and modern fishing equipment. The same organization has also trained fishmongers on how to preserve fish naturally which includes salting and sun-drying to be later sold in inland Somalia.

Late October 2018, SMDC, with the support of the German International Development Agency GIZ, organized a one-day roadshow in Kismayo, Somalia, to encourage families living in and around the coastal city to start including fish in their diets plus generate income from fishing.

Conclusion

For a country that for decades has been facing recurring famines and food crises due to droughts, poor government policies, or inaction amid civil war, fishing remains the country’s beacon of hope for food security and poverty alleviation.

 

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Sexual Gender Based Violence-SGBV in Somalia

Introduction

Sexual Gender-Based Violence, SGBV is defined as violence against individuals or groups based on their gender identity. Both men and women experience violence and conflict differently, either as victims and or perpetrators.

SGBV in Somalia is closely linked to gender discrimination, cultural and socio-economic factors that underpin and perpetuate the occurrence of SGBV such as stereotypes, illiteracy, lack of employment, poverty, family breakdown, etc. However, women have been targeted for rape, abduction, sexual slavery, and clan-related revenge killings.

A criminal or morality issue?

in-depth research has established that the two are intertwined, however, there exist wide differences between and among Somali communities and international standards on their understanding and perceptions of SGBV.

This has been brought about by a lack of harmonization between the three legal systems in force across Somalia; Sharia, customary (Xeer), and statutory laws. Under the latter, the recognition and legal definitions of SGBV have evolved over time while the penal code criminalizes rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Under customary law, sexual crime is not perceived as a violation of an individual’s bodily integrity, but rather as an issue of morality and honor and a crime committed first and foremost against the family, clan or community.

Are SGBV cases and the conflict in Somalia interlinked?

Various research papers have concluded that SGBV in Somalia is closely linked to the history of violence experienced by the country since the toppling of the Siad Barre regime in the early ’90s.

However, the SGBV cases were still present before the toppling despite the presence of a strong central government and institutions that rallied the uploading of women’s rights in Somalia.

The predominant perpetrators of sexual violence and exploitation vary by region (Somaliland, Puntland, and south and central Somalia).

Given the conflict in the south and central of Somalia, violence, and exploitation perpetrated by men in uniform is more prevalent than in Puntland and Somaliland where such acts are, more often than not, perpetrated by men in civilian clothes.

Commonalities exist in all three regions when it comes to other forms of GBV, such as domestic violence, FGM/C, and early marriages as well as with regard to responses to these incidents.

Rape was still widely used as a weapon of war during the Somalia–Ethiopia conflict in 1976 and the uprising against Barre’s central authority. Mass rape against women and girls was also reported in the 1988 uprising in Somaliland. Violence increased with the years of conflict and the collapse of the state and traditional structures.

Case study

Jamilah Aden* (Not her real name) remembers with pain what she had to go through under the arms of her uncle.

“My parents died in a bomb incident in central Mogadishu, I was only 14 years old. My uncle took me in as one of his daughters. But sadly, he would sexually molest me at night when everyone was sound asleep.” Narrated Jamila who is disabled by polio.

She is however thankful for the NGOs that have been rescuing such victims and she says she heard about such services through the local radio stations. She was later rescued although her uncle went missing never to be seen again.

Jamilah’s case proves that women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk of GBV, both within and outside the home, and are disproportionately affected in emergencies and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response, and recovery efforts. The Strategy will ensure that women and girls with disabilities are prioritized.

The role of CBOs in GBV

NGOs have the potential to end violence by getting involved in research, advocating for policy reform, addressing GBV through reproductive health and humanitarian relief programs, educating men and boys about gender equity, shifting attitudes about violent behavior, working with spiritual and cultural leaders, and reaching out to the most vulnerable populations.

According to SOMALIA Gender-based Violence Working Group, recent data collected from Banadir, Middle and Lower Shabelle regions indicate that the majority of cases reported were rape (at 41%) followed by physical assault (at 39%), sexual assault (11%), denial of resources (4%), psychological abuse (3%), and forced marriage (2%).

Although conflict is at the core of GBV, deep-rooted cultural beliefs create persistent inequalities between men and women and place women at particular risk of being victimized.

SMDC also spoke to Radhika Ahmed who is the Protection Officer dealing with the GBV section at Women and Child Care Organization, WOCCA, which also operates in Middle-Lower Shabelle and Banadir Region, Somalia.

“Many cases go unreported due to the Maslaha system that is highly regarded in the Somalia Community as a legal dispute resolution mechanism to settle such serious cases as rape and assault. Most of those cases reported are the severe ones,” revealed Radhika who works at the WOCCA liaison office in Westlands, Nairobi.

Light at the end of the tunnel

However, with the mushrooming of various human rights organizations both local and international, expansion of the media space in the larger Somalia, SGBV cases have reduced although not drastically.

Women have also been sensitized on their rights and this has seen a number of the affected reaching out to the authorities to report.

Among the international organizations actively involved in the awareness activities through a multi-faceted approach, which includes capacity-building, support to service provision, awareness activities, research, and advocacy is the United Nations in Somalia.

In November 2019, the United Nations in Somalia conducted the annual global 16-day campaign against sexual and gender-based violence under the theme; Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan termed the exercise a success adding that, “Gender-based and sexual violence are meant to suppress full political, social, and economic participation of women and girls. Without the participation of more than half the population, sustainable peace and development will not be attained”.

“Preventing and ending sexual and gender-based violence is essential for Somalia to achieve a better future,” he added.

The introduction of the International Organization for Migration has also come in handy in prioritizing the training of psychosocial counselors and female IDPs as peer counselors, particularly in light of gender-based violence cases.

Challenges in curbing SGBV in Somalia

Despite Somalia having laws that prohibit rape, normalization of SGBV has been reinforced by a lack of access to justice for survivors and or the laws not being enforced.

Somalia has not signed or adopted any of the major international instruments for women’s rights and gender equality such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.

Female police officers/lawyers

It is no doubt that the number of female police officers in the larger Somalia is not enough to handle Gender-based violence-related cases and that translates to injustice to the victims who are in hundreds if not thousands.

According to the Association of Somali Women Lawyers (ASWL) that focuses on criminal justice and is based in Mogadishu, Somalia. It is challenging for and GBV victims to get much-needed help especially at the right time due to a lack of female police officers that can freely interrogate the victims.

“We not only focus on capacity building and training programs but also deliver in the provision of legal assistance i.e. counseling, legal aid and representation, interpretation, translation and to increase the number of women involvement in legal and justice administration,” said Habiba Jimale, ASWL’s network champion

Reluctance

Although there has been a general increase in awareness about rape and sexual violence, there remains a reluctance to talk about gender-based violence. for instance, UNICEF reported that 76% of women 15–49 years old consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife, if his wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him or neglects the children or refuses sexual relations.

Female Genital Mutilation

Although the provisional federal constitution describes female circumcision as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country. UNICEF reported that 98 percent of women and girls had undergone FGM/C and that the majority were subjected to infibulation-the most severe form.

In as much as the International and local NGOs have continued to conduct education awareness programs on the dangers of FGM/C, but there were no reliable statistics to measure their success.

IDPs

The Human Rights Watch ‘World Report 2018’, published on 18 January 2018, stated: ‘Internally displaced women and girls remain at particular risk of sexual and gender-based violence by armed men, including government soldiers and militia members, and civilians.

The director of the human rights organization of Puntland state with it is headquartered in Bosaso, Abdi Hakin Said Bajun says they register close to 30 rape cases in Bosaso on a monthly basis.

Sexual gender-based violence is not only limited to women; every year several children are also abused.

Way forward

The Sexual Offences Bill and the FGM Bills in Somalia should be aligned with the international legal framework, enacted, implemented, and widely disseminated, with various stakeholders (local authorities, service providers, community and religious leaders, local CBOs) being sensitized to its provisions.

Local and international media houses plus CBO’s should come up with creative but moderate ways to engage the locals in enlightening them on the issues surrounding gender-based violence.

A case in point is the toll-free hotline 5555 launched for internally displaced persons in Somalia by the United Nations. The hotline nicknamed ‘Ceebla’  mean ‘No shame’ in the Somali language.

“More importantly, we are also sharing with them information on services available for victims of gender-based violence, which includes domestic violence and rape,” said UNSOM Human Rights Officer Abdinasir Moallin during a training session meant to sensitize IDPs on the rights and services available to victims of gender-based violence.

The government also needs to build community resilience to prevent and mitigate acts of GBV and harmful traditional practices and contribute to the systemic implementation of the UN Security Council related Resolutions on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

There is also a need to strengthen the rule of law and access to justice to reduce the vulnerability of women, men, boys, and girls to GBV without forgetting the strengthening of the coordination of GBV prevention and response activities among other humanitarian actors and the Somali civil society.

Conclusion

Security, Safety, Sensitivity, and Confidentiality of GBV victims are paramount as most cases often result in shame and stigma and many survivors lack the feeling of trust in confidential issues. Trust must be established to help survivors acknowledge that they have been subjected to violence and that they are in need of available services.

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COVID-19 Stifles Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations

2020 will go down the books of history as a year where Eid celebrations were not celebrated across the globe with the pomp and color associated with the annual festive period, Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world in a way was never imagined.

it has brought normal life to a standstill, including religious practice, with communal prayers and nightly Taraweeh prayers impacted by the restrictions brought in to stifle the spread of the pandemic and now Eid celebrations.

What is Eid ul Fitr?

Eid ul Fitr is a religious holiday marked after a month-long-dawn-to-sunset of fasting during the Holy month of Ramadhan and is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It is the first and only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast.

It is believed that it was during the month of Ramadhan that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (Muhammad SAW).

Traditions during Eid ul Fitr

Eid ul Fitr is a joyous moment in every Muslim household with traditions emphasizing large gatherings, wearing of at least new outfits, gift-giving, and sharing of meals with friends and family including the less fortunate in the community.

On the morning of Eid, Muslims wake up as early as 5 am to prepare for the big day. In many households, breakfast for Eid is prepared the night before.

Grown-ups and children alike bathe and dress in at least new clothes and by 7 am they congregate for prayers in a mosque or large halls and most of the time, held in the open to accommodate the large numbers for Salat ul Eid.

Believers are encouraged to eat something sweet especially dates before heading for prayers and on their way, they are supposed to recite takbir, praising Allah.

The children are offered gifts and money to mark the joyous occasion. This is preceded by the giving of alms to the poor who most of the time are found outside the masjids, all in the spirit of commemorating the end of the holy month.

Muslim faithful gather in masjids and or open-air places where they offer two units of prayer referred to as ‘rakat’. The prayers are then followed by a sermon by an imam who asks for forgiveness, mercy, and peace.

What is different in 2020?

Muslims congregating for Eid prayers in mosques has been a ritual long-etched in the minds of billions of believers across the world but with the onset of Covid-19 early this year, the closure of worship areas has left Muslims with no option but staying indoors to mark the celebrations.

On the 20th of May 2020, Kenyan’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’ i in a gazette notice declared May 25, 2020 a public holiday in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 2 (1) of the Public Holidays Act.

However, the celebrations are expected to be low key considering the lockdown and cessation of key areas where most Muslims shop for Eid in Nairobi’s Eastleigh and Old Town in Mombasa to observe the social distancing rule directed by the Ministry of Health.

Eidiyah, which is a tradition of giving money to family members during Eid, is also prohibited this year in a bid to avoid infections spreading via banknotes and coins.

All these measures are being implemented in a bid to stop the coronavirus from spreading further.

It will also be remembered that President Uhuru Kenyatta early last month ruled out a curfew extension for Muslims during the month of Ramadhan. In his address to the nation, he maintained that just like Christian, who were forced to mark Easter celebrations at their homes, Muslims should not expect special treatment during the holy month.

“Same to what we told Christians during Easter, this year is a special year. Everyone to celebrate at home. Muslims should follow suit and know that this is a special year,” Uhuru said.

What this means for the business community

Maybe the worst hit is the business community in Nairobi’s Eastleigh where is currently on lockdown until the 6th of June 2020 after the days were recently extended by two more weeks.

“We have lost a lot of business opportunities this month”, says Anisa Ibrahim who owns a retail shop at Madina Mall in Eastleigh that specializes in shoes, Abayas, and head scarfs imported from Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

“By this time, we would have sold almost all the new stock. I get clients from as far as Tanzania, Uganda, North Eastern, and even Mombasa. But as you can see, we are not in business”. She says.

The story is no different from Kassim who also sells male kanzus and open shoes in an adjacent shop. However, Kassim says they have now resulted in using social media to market and sell their products.

Most of the traders in Eastleigh however, are complaining of their luggage’s not being cleared on time hence affecting their businesses with some even closing down their shops completely.

What Muslims say about Eid this year

Through Social Media, we asked random Muslims what this year’s Eid ul Fitr means to them compared with the past Eids;

Fatuma Sambur on Facebook said, ‘Eid is not Eid without hooyo waking me up at 4 am in the morning while yelling, “waa dhuhur, masajidka wubuuxa!”.

Zeinab Osman too aired her sentiments reminiscing how for years over they would fight over who gets to shower at 6 am first before donning their new clothes.

“This is a totally different Eid, from the floods to missing Eid prayers, sweets, family brunch and hanging out with our friends and cousins, I cannot even fathom”, said Fardosa Hassan who resides in Garissa town on Instagram.

On Twitter, Omar Sheikh used only three words to describe what this Eid will be missing, “Buskut iyo halwo”. He tweeted.

Eid Mubaraka!

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