July 1 2011

First SOS Children's Village in Somaliland officially opened

01/07/2011 - On 29 June, SOS Children's Villages President Helmut Kutin officially inaugurated the SOS Children's Village in Hargeisa. The SOS Children's Village started already functioning in 2008.

It offers family-based care for children who cannot grow up within their biological family, social support for disadvantaged families and a medical centre where thousands of children and mothers are treated.

Photo: Mariantonietta Peru
The children from Hargeisa enjoyed the celebrations  - © Mariantonietta Peru
The ceremony was attended by the President of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, First Lady Amina Sheikh Mohamed, the Mayor of Hargeisa, Hissein Mohamud Jicir, government officials, as well as a Norwegian delegation and a representative from Denmark. Children and SOS mothers presented great performances with songs, poems and traditional dances. A groundbreaking ceremony for an SOS Primary School in Hargeisa also took place on the same day.

Mr Kutin thanked the president and all authorities in Somaliland, all mothers and co-workers for their support of the work of SOS Children's Villages. "Keep this spirit high," he said. "And may peace, prosperity and hope become a reality in Somaliland."

Acknowledgement from the President of Somaliland

Photo: Mariantonietta Peru
President Kutin and the village director of Hargeisa with children from the SOS Children's Village - © Mariantonietta Peru
On his part, the President of Somaliland thanked SOS Children's Villages, and in particular the Danish and Norwegian delegations for their contribution and support. "It is great to see these tremendous efforts", he said. "I look forward to working with you for the sake of our country and our children." He also praised SOS Children's Villages for renovating the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Sheikh, a town 90km south of the port of Berbera. "This is a famous school," said Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo. "I myself was a student there during colonial times and I can truly say this is now one of the best schools in Somaliland." The president also expressed his hope that other SOS programmes will be set up in Somaliland in the future.

Variety of social services

The SOS Children's Village Hargeisa, funded by donors and sponsors from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, enables up to 120 children to grow up in an SOS family. The family strengthening programme, run from the SOS Social and Medical Centre which was also opened in 2008, is working with three specific communities in Hargeisa. The first consists of refugees, often from war torn Somalia and the Somali region of Ethiopia. The second group is HIV positive people in families. While the government hospitals are supplying free anti-retroviral drugs to these people, the SOS Medical Centre is treating opportunistic infections. The third group is women who have been widowed due to the civil war in the late 1980s. The war widows are a self-help group that benefits from skills training, and whose children benefit from free medical care.

Photo: Hilary Atkins
Mothers with their children are waiting for medical check at the SOS Medical Centre - © Mariantonietta Peru
The SOS Medical Centre in Hargeisa is the most modern clinic in the town. It is looking after hundreds of children registered in the family strengthening programme. For those not on the programme it is primarily a mother and child clinic, giving ante and post natal care, together with an "under-fives" programme which monitors growth and, in partnership with UNICEF, offers free immunization.

SOS School one of the best in the country

The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Sheikh was erected and operated by the British colonial power in 1950 and renovated and re-opened in 2003. Most students, amongst them also some from Somalia, come from very poor backgrounds but their ability to finish their secondary education was not stifled, as many of them are given scholarships by SOS Children's Villages. The re-opening of the school was mainly realized thanks to the effort and dedication of the late Dick and Enid Eyeington, the first principal and his wife who were tragically murdered in October 2003 in Sheikh. They left an indelible mark in the history of SOS Children's Villages Somaliland.