Somalia: Puntland fact sheet - Mar 2006

Situation Report
Originally published



Puntland is situated in the north east of Somalia, centered around the administrative capital of Garowe - other major towns include Bossaso, Galkayo, Garowe and Gardho. In 1998, political leaders declared it an autonomous region which in future they hope will be part of a federal united Somalia.

In the past, conflict, drought and out migration of people (especially prior to the civil war in the early 1990s) have paralyzed most of the region's infrastructures and economic resources. The last major conflict took place in 2002 when two rival factions fought for authority and power in the region. While the current prevailing peace (2005) provides respite from warfare and hope for a better future, the situation in Puntland remains critical -- financial resources are limited, food security is tenuous and the vulnerable population is growing.

There remains an unresolved dispute with Somaliland over the western regions of Sool and Sanaag that resulted in clashes, displacements and restricted humanitarian access during 2004/5. Apart from this dispute, access and security in Puntland is currently unhindered, although increased security incidents against INGOs working in the area were reported at the end of 2005. In the last three years and attracted by Puntland's relative stability, the number of people spontaneously moving into the region has risen - fleeing the south for security and economic reasons. IDPs and returnees occupy the major towns particularly Bossaso, Galkayo, Garowe and Gardho. However, reports suggest this has detrimentally impacted on the standard of living of the host population who are obliged to assist (with whatever support they can) through the extensive Somali family network and putting great additional strain on the area's limited resources.

The rule of law remains weak; vulnerable groups particularly IDPs, the urban destitute and poor, suffer regular infringements of their human rights. However, progress is being made and in November 2005 the Puntland authorities embarked on their first ever Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programme (DDR) with UNDP Somalia to strengthen the rule of law and security in the region.

Smuggling and people trafficking from Puntland to Yemen and the Gulf States continues to be a major concern. According to UNHCR in Yemen, the death toll of people smuggled from Bossaso to Yemen is rising. Two boats capsized off the Yemeni coast on 21 and 22 January 2006. The first carried 128 people of which only five survived, while the second carried 128, with only 46 survivors. Passengers are mainly Somalis and Ethiopians. In the last two weeks of January, 32 boats were registered by the Yemen authorities. During the same period some 1,300 Somalis and 70 Ethiopians were registered as newcomers by UNHCR. The influx came after a break over the Christmas period due to bad weather conditions and is said to have increased because of the drought affecting the Horn, which smugglers are taking full advantage of. Efforts are being made to find durable solutions to the problem in cooperation with the local authorities in Puntland.

Following several years of drought in the north, the FAO's, Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) reported (February 2005) on the need for the humanitarian community to continue to support the recovery of pastoral livelihoods in the region in the form of debt relief, restocking and the creation of alternative livelihoods for people that burn wood to make charcoal. This industry has a detrimental impact on the environment, involving the cutting down of trees - and further degradation will impact the sustainability of the pastoralist livelihood in future. Development projects also need to address the high levels of overall poverty in the region and in particular the lack of schools and health facilities, poor communications and road infrastructure. The use of limited household income on the leaf narcotic 'khat' is continuing to have a devastating impact on the economy and society in general.

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