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Well off families thrown into poverty by Milho market fire in Sanag

(ERGO) – Hawo Mohamud Salad and her five children have been camping under trees for weeks after their house and property was burnt down in a fire outbreak in Milho, in the north of Somaliland’s Sanag region.

They are among 1,150 families who have not managed to rebuild their lives after losing everything in the fire that occurred on 23 September.

Hawo lost her three room house made of iron sheets and two shops she ran that provided the family’s income.

She said they get one meal in 24 hours from their neighbours. She is increasingly worried about her 80-year-old father, who cannot bear the harsh conditions of cold at night and lack of shade in the day as well as food shortage.

“We just find shelter under trees. It’s sandy, with no bedding, we don’t have any clothes or a house,” she said.

Her two shops were valued at $30,000. She had built up her business from just $650 that she borrowed from a local bank in Puntland eight years ago.

Hawo, who is separated from her husband and raises her children alone, relied on $50-$70 income per day from the shops that supported her family well and paid school fees for two of her children.

Her children are now out of education as the school was also burned down in the blazing fire.

“Our main concern is lack of shelter, we have nowhere to live and also no income,” she said.

The devastating fire was said to have started from a small cafeteria and quickly spread to other parts of the crowded market and houses.

Abdikarim Ahmed Ali, a father of seven, is living with his family on the outskirts of Milho being hosted by pastoralist relatives. They share food with their relatives although they have no proper shelter to protect them from the sun and cold.

He owned three stalls in Milho including one where he had stored sewing machines. He said his business was worth $11,000 and it brought him a good income.

“I had three businesses, two of them were being run by other people, one stored the tailoring equipment. It’s hard to imagine the losses,” he said.

He doesn’t know how he can recover from the fire and set up in business again.

“The people in the area were people with some property and we could help whoever came to us, but now we’ve all been displaced. We have nothing, the contrast between now and then is like day and night,” he said.

Milho, 27 kilometres from Lasqoray, is well known as a business centre. The vast market was crowded with shops and makeshift stalls, although there were no proper streets, only narrow pathways. This meant that the fire spread rapidly consuming everything.

The district commissioner of Lasqoray, Abdirakim Yusuf Jama, told Radio Ergo that almost 700 businesses were destroyed in the fire, causing ac humanitarian crisis in the area.

He said they have handed out plastic sheeting, utensils and food aid to some of the families and were working to help more people.

“We have reached out to 400 families and given these families some food to last them for 25 days. We have not reached 750 other families. We are appealing to the government, the aid organisations and well-wishers for help,” the district commissioner said.

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