The Somali region in Ethiopia, not to be confused with the neighboring country of Somalia, is rich in natural resources but has often been perceived as a place of displacement which has suffered from a lack of central and regional government investment. Upgrading key infrastructure is crucial to getting the province back on its feet.
One of Ethiopia’s 10 regional states, the Somali region is home to frankincense, oil, and gas but successive droughts have wrought devastation on its large agricultural sector. The famine of 1999-2000 is believed to have wiped out 70 to 90 percent of the region’s livestock and cattle. As a result of below-average rainfall in 2020, communities are facing dire conditions with as many as 8.5 million people judged to be food insecure by this June.
It is clear that infrastructure development is critical in a 'developing’ country. The Somali region needs it more than most and endemic problems remain due to the scarce infrastructural provision.
Addis Zeybe has strived to contact people in the region and amplify the problems they are facing from different sides.
People that Addis Zeybe spoke to in the Afdher Zone, one of 11 in the region, have said repeated regional government promises over much-needed infrastructure have not been acted upon. Sources said that the roads in the Afdher are out of use, a severe ongoing shortage of running water continues, and basic services have become even worse.
Faisel Alinur, a resident of “Hargele Woreda,” said the regional government promised to construct key infrastructure projects eight years ago but that the community was still waiting for it to happen. “Despite this, nothing has been accomplished except a promise from them every year," she said.
According to Faisel, community representatives have pleaded to the zonal and regional governments to kickstart public works schemes. “We have been requesting the concerned bodies repeatedly for the execution of these development projects, but none of them were carried out," said Faisel.
Sheikh Abdi, another community member in the area, said. “I hear every year that there is a plan to do this and that, but I don't see where those things are happening on the ground."
He adds that every “kebele in the zone” – the smallest government administrative unit – is under huge pressure to access basic services like hospitals, running water, and access to roads.
Many of the people Addis Zeybe interviewed residents said roads, bridges, and other pieces of infrastructure in the Afdher Zone are in dire condition. They believe that if the roads to the rural health centers had been better, many lives could have been saved so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency ambulances are unable to reach villages to help pregnant women in labor. "Family members have to use a motorbike to get a pregnant woman to a waiting ambulance, putting the life of her unborn baby at risk," adds Sheikh Abdi.
The major problem for the delay of those basic projects in the zone is "the subsequent administrators of the zone and the former governor of the region," says Suleman Abdulahi Hassan, Director of Wash Program at the Regional Water Resources Bureau.
Suleman also says “the regional government has now finalized a plan to reach the zone and implement the long-awaited projects".
Abdirahman Ahmed, Head of the Regional Water Resources Bureau, also lays the responsibility at the former administrators in the region.
Time will ultimately tell whether the residents of Afdher will get the basic services they deserve.