Somalia: Puntland leader launches welfare agency
May 22, 2009 - 12:44:21 PM


GAROWE, Somalia May 22 (Garowe Online) - A well-organized ceremony was held Thursday in Somalia's self-governing region of Puntland where regional President Abdirahman Mohamed "Farole" officially launched the state's first-ever welfare agency, Radio Garowe reports.

Mr. Ali Barre Jama Gibin, the Chief of Cabinet, was facilitator for the event held at the compound of the Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC) in Garowe, the administrative capital of Puntland State.

Attendees represented a wide-range of Puntland government officials, Muslim sheikhs, traditional elders, international aid organization representatives, local aid workers, journalists, and members of the community.

The ceremony opened with Sheikh Mohamud Haji Yusuf reciting verses from the Noble Qur'an, Islam's holy book.

Afterwards, Mr. Gibin welcomed Puntland Interior Minister Gen. Abdullahi Ahmed "Ilkajir" to the microphone.

PASWE Event Banner in Garowe May 21, 2009
The Interior Minister spoke briefly, citing that the Puntland Agency for Social Welfare (PASWE) is the first of its kind in Somali history.

He called on everyone to participate and to assist PASWE succeed in helping the disadvantaged people, such as the orphans, the disabled, the blind, and other vulnerable groups. He praised President Farole for expanding women's role in government by including four women in the Cabinet.

Dr. Bashir Ali Bihi, Puntland's health minister, gave a lengthy speech in which he touched on many subjects related to offering assistance to vulnerable groups.

"It is the sign of a progressive society to share some of its own wealth with less advantaged people," Dr. Bihi said.

He noted that Somalia has suffered nearly 20 years of civil war and raised questions about how many children lost their parents, how many people lost their limbs and how many people lost their financial assets.

The Health Minister said there are 70 camps for internally displaced persons in Puntland, where nearly 200,000 people live, while highlighting that orphanages in Karkar, Nugal and Mudug regions house 300, 215 and 245 orphans, respectively.

Ms. Hawo Qeyloweyne spoke next, with her passionate speech drawing in the crowd as she detailed the early beginnings of the first mental institution in Puntland.

"We started as a group of volunteers to help the forgotten people," said Ms. Hawo, while referring to mental patients.

She highlighted that ten people have been treated since her non-profit organization began the mental institution five years ago, as the crowd applauded.

A blind mind, Sheikh Dalmar Gureye Karshe, told the gathering that Al Basar school for blind people in Garowe has attracted "students from across Somalia."

"Our students come from Puntland regions, and also from other towns like Beletwein, Dhusamareb and Abudwak," Sheikh Dalmar said, referring to major towns in Galgadud and Hiran regions, south of Puntland.

He indicated that Al Basar is currently accepting 20 new students between 7 and 16 years of age as the school's limited capacity cannot handle more students.

Sheikh Dalmar specifically thanked Puntland President Farole for including financial support for Al Basar and other help centers in the 2009 budget.

Puntland's most well-known Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abdulkadir Nur Farah, reminded the gathering that everyone must fear and obey Allah (God) and advised the people to assist society's less advantaged "as our [Islamic] religion instructs us to do," he added.

"I am very happy for the opening of this agency…I urge the government and the public to work together on all issues, including security and properly raising our children," Sheikh Abdulkadir said.

Mr. Abdullahi Salad Ilyare, the head of Dababshiil money-wiring company's Garowe office, spoke briefly about Dahabshiil' s financial contribution to the construction of a new mental institution in the Puntland capital.

"Dahabshiil has donated US$20,000 to the new building and we ask others to contribute," Mr. Ilyare said.

Mr. Gibin, the Chief of Cabinet who facilitated the event, then introduced the new director-general of PASWE, Mr. Abdishakur Mohamud "Gurey."

Mr. Gurey stated that a lot of hard work remains ahead as PASWE has just been institutionalized and urged everyone to "come together" and to help PASWE accomplish its noble mission.

"Currently, we are busy collecting data and assessing the needs of the disadvantaged," said Mr. Gurey, who is by profession an engineer from Canada.

The speaker of the Puntland Parliament, Mr. Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi, told the crowd that the launching of PASWE is a "victory for the State and people of Puntland" and noted that people disadvantaged by war and poverty live in every region.

"I urge everyone to come together with the same spirit of today and to ensure that we have tangible results by our next meeting," said Speaker Hersi, who finally welcomed President Farole to the microphone.

The Puntland leader firstly thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and underscored that Islam encourages its adherents to have mercy and to give charity.

He noted that the 2009 budget allocated 960million Somali Shillings (US$32,000) as financial support to humanitarian organizations that operate mental institutions and schools for blind students, adding that instituting a welfare agency was part of his 2008 campaign promise.

"This new agency [PASWE] is expected to present a wide-ranging program with medical treatment, education and giving general direction to vulnerable groups," President Farole said, adding that the program will be "founded on the principles of justice and responsibility."

Mr. Farole specifically thanked Dahabshiil, one of Somalia's largest companies, for its donation to the new mental institution under construction in Garowe, the capital of Puntland State.

"We [government] give direction, but participation is needed from the public," the Puntland leader said, while praising the public who recently took part in arresting a suspected murderer who fled Garowe and was apprehended by citizens in Mataban district of Galgadud region, south of Puntland.

Addressing the Somali Diaspora, President Farole requested them to funnel their money and energy towards helping people disadvantaged by the civil war.

"PASWE will have a Board of Directors consisting of Ulema [religious scholars], businesspeople, intellectuals, and traditional elders," the President said, while describing the administrational structure of the new welfare agency.

The Puntland leader praised Somali women who have played a key role in helping Somali society cope and survive since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

Lastly, President Farole underscored that those assisted by PASWE will not be recruited on the basis of clan, but "on the basis of who needs assistance most."

Dr. Farole, who campaigned on a platform of change and was elected president in January 2009, has taken new steps unseen in Puntland since the regional authority was established in 1998.

Source: Garowe Online