Somaliland: Family Bread-Winning Young Orphan


As the debate of street children and child labour rages in the country the big question mark is does Somaliland have better Economic prospects than Ethiopia?

Master Abdiqani 11 yrs old Hargeisa news vendor

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Regular newspaper buyers in Hargeisa are familiar with a young vendor who plies his trade in the city’s main streets.

The vendor Abdiqani Feisal is an 11 years orphan who has been vending newspapers in the streets of Hargeisa for the last two years thus supplements what his Khat selling mother manages to put on the table daily.

“I earn between 15,000-20,000 Somaliland shillings everyday from my work as a newspaper seller” Master Abdiqani told Somalilandsun during an encounter at the Bar Hargeisa area where he is to be found around 12 pm daily putting his accounts in order.

According to the youthful newsvendor the about $3 he accrues daily comes from commissions paid by the publishers whose arrangement range between 500-1000 sh for each newspaper sold thus the income depends on marketing aggressiveness.

A 9-year old shines shoes outside a commercial area in HargeisaMaster Abdiqani Feisal who was orphaned 5 years ago after his father suddenly died of causes he could not explain to us said that he helps his mother feed the family of five, three sisters, himself and mother, by selling newspaper in the morning and attending school in the afternoons.

Said he, “Am a class 4 pupil at Ahmed Gurei primary school in Ahmed Dagan estate of the capital city where we also reside in a one room rented house”

Despite being an orphan Master Abdiqani is no different to numerous other children of his age that are forced by circumstances to work thence help feed their families in a country where single mothers are increasingly taking the responsibility of breadwinners.

According to Sophia Abyssinia who is a single mother and sole family breadwinner “Not only widows and orphans are gradually taking over as family breadwinners but even those whose husbands and fathers are alive as well”

The 46 years old mother of six children and a widow herself attributes the anomaly of women and children taking over family responsibilities to the menflock addiction to the herbal stimulant Khat that has resulted in their loss of interest in traditionally male responsibilities of caring for their wives and children.

Said she, “I have known clients that spend $10 daily on Khat while their families go hungry”

While the capital Hargeisa and other major cities in Somaliland are host to a large and growing number of children working either as newsvendors, shoe-shiners, hawkers, and or beggars few of them are somalilanders by citizenship.

Following recent media reports that child labour is rampant in the country Somalilandsun consulted the ministry of labour and social services which is responsible for child welfare and officials said the government has done and is doing whatever necessary to alleviate difficulties encountered by children especially orphans.

According to the ministry most towns in the country have government and community managed orphanages where the needy are accorded full board and education at no cost while others are supported while in family residences.

On the issue of the reported exacerbating prevalence of child labourers in the country the social welfare ministry attributes this to citizens of a neigbouring country, read Ethiopia, who upon entering Somaliland illegally with adults engaging in menial labour and sending their children to the streets either to work as car-washers or shoe-shiners but mostly as beggars.

Shoeshining kids from Ethiopia

Does Somaliland have better Economic prospects than Ethiopia?

“I am 10 years and I help my parents feed the family from my daily begging collection in the streets of Hargeisa” Ms. Leila a 10 years old girl old of Ethiopian origin told Somalilandsun during an encounter at Jaylani Barbershop last March .

Adding that she never attended school either here or in Ethiopia thus a professional beggar the shy girl said “Every morning either of my parents brings me to town where I join up with other children for a day’s job of begging and return home in the evening when either of my parents comes to collect me and my day’s collection of cash and foodstuffs”

The Young Leila whose future seems to be destined for the dustbin is among an increasing number of youthful beggars from a particular tribe in Ethiopia who ply the streets of Hargeisa city and other major towns where they hustle people for donations especially those changing money or buying goods.

It is not only Young Leila’s age-mates who engaged in the lucrative begging duties but boys of all ages as well not to mention the women who straddle babies and sit at vantage street points or outside mosques during prayer hours.

 Insiders say that most of the children carried by the begging women are hired ones as it is believed that young hungry children carried by their seemingly hungry and dirty mothers elicits the sympathy of Somalilanders. True or not we are not sure as most women queried claim the babies are actually theirs thus the continued prying on the naïve somalilanders.

As for the boys, once they learn the ropes of the towns they are reported to rebel from their duties as begging family bread winners, abscond from home and thus join the cadre of glue sniffing shoe-shinning street boys and ultimately juvenile criminals.

According to journalists Latifa Yusuf Masai of Somalilandsun most of the children have been dumped in the cities to work for their parents who are mainly from a neigbouring country

Said she, “In the recent past all major towns in the country have seen an influx of large quantities of street children who operate as shoe shiners, beggars and carwashes but have no permanent abode”

Meanwhile concerted efforts to alleviate the suffering of street children in the country are needed urgently.

This is according to the chairman of the Committee for promotion of good deeds and deterrence of misbehavior Sheikh Mohamed Haji Mahmud Hiire during a press briefing in his Hargeisa offices where he termed the livelihood of the ever increasing numbers of street children as deplorable.

The head of the committee which operates nationwide to promote good Islamic conduct said that the nation that is experiencing an upsurge of children living in the streets needs concerted efforts by all stakeholders thus come up with strategies to alleviate the maladybeggars of all ages in Hargeisa said to be from neighbouring Ethiopia

“The large number of girls living in the streets is a clear indication that things are getting out of hand” said Sheikh Hiire who urged the government and well-wishers to support the Miskin kalkal project operated by his organization thus broaden services availed the street children and orphans.

According to journalist Barkad Dahir of Sabahi online Last year, the Somaliland Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the international non-governmental organization Save the Children created income-generating programmes for 85 poor families as a way to prevent parents from sending their children to work. The ministry also collaborated with international non-governmental organization SOS Children’s Villages to finance small-scale business opportunities for 45 more families.

In 2012, the ministry created a centre to rehabilitate homeless street children in the Mohamed Mooge district of Hargeisa, Khalif said, adding that the centre now houses 140 boys and girls.

The ministry this year plans to count the number of child workers in Somaliland, Khalif said, without elaborating on what new policies, if any, the regional administration plans to pursue in order to protect children from being exploited.

Illegals at the refugee registration centre in Hargeisa

While the republic of Somaliland is home to some 23,000 refugees from various countries and 84,400 from Somalia dubbed IDPs it is host to an estimated over 100,000 illegal’s who apart from being unaware of the requirements for registration as an alien are behind the ever increasing and now almost out of control of street children and child labourers.

Meanwhile as the debate of street children and child labour rages in the country the big question mark is does Somaliland have better Economic prospects than Ethiopia?

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