“After the collapse of the central government, public service delivery for the community had just been a dream. Clan conflict further made social services either unavailable or unreachable. This project changed this for the first time,” This was Balanbale’s District Commissioner reflecting on a community development initiative funded by SSF and implemented by Zamzam Foundation. The project brought together Balanbale’s local administration and different segments of the community to identify community infrastructure needs, improve local services and promote social cohesion.
Responding to needs, bringing communities together
Balanbale is a town in the Galmudug State. Long and protracted inter and intra clan conflicts resulted in extensive damage to local infrastructure and weakened local governance in the district. The project set out to improve local services and infrastructure, but before it could do this, the first priority was to promote reconciliation between different segments of the community through dialogue and reconciliation meetings. These activities brought together the district administration, elders, religious leaders, business-people, representatives of youth, women, and minority group representatives from Balanbale.
These dialogues revealed a pressing and shared need for improved healthcare services. Prenatal health care for women and health care services for children had been inaccessible and costly for the community. Together, the community identified the expansion of Balanbale Hospital as a priority community project to address these needs.
The local administration led by the District Commissioner took the lead in mobilising the community and resources for the project. The local administration donated land for the construction of the hospital and provided bags of cement and trucks loaded with building stones. Members of the diaspora supported Balanbale residents through mobilising resources to purchase medical equipment for the hospital. They also set aside funds to employ medical doctors and nurses for public service delivery to the community. To supplement this the Stability Fund also provided funding to complete the work.
The rehabilitation of the hospital has meant that pregnant women can be cared for closer to home and minor medical procedures can be catered for locally. Patients no longer need to travel long distances for services they can now access more affordably locally.
Dr. Abdiaziz Hujo, a doctor at Balanbale General Hospital and a resident of Balanbale, thinks the initiative is very important for his fellow residents: “This hospital has created a scenario where irrespective of clan affiliation people come from nearby villages and far-flung areas. You know the clan animosities that exist in Balanbale District. This hospital has brought the communities together, promoted community co-existence and community tolerance without reprisals and revenges.”
The local government’s role in the project has also improved the community’s trust in the local administration. Balanbale’s Disctrict Commissioner Mr. Jamac Hayle explains “Both our local administration and community are now working hand in hand. [the project] has taught us a lot. It has revived the engagement between the community and the local administration. It has given power to the people to decide what they want. This approach is helpful because it promotes transparency and accountability between the citizens and the government as well as reduce corruption.” This has highlighted for SSF the important role initiatives like this can play in community cohesion. The project has improved trust, cooperation and accountability within the community, as well as transforming access to healthcare.