Children in school in Somaliland - A Grandfather feeding his grandchild in China
‘Somaliland still has a long way to go to recover from the civil war, but there are good things happening...’
- “Tracing our family's footsteps in Somaliland”
Somaliland still has a long way to go to recover from the civil war, but there are good things happening...
This was our first trip to Somaliland and we were retracing the steps of our relative Richard Darlington. He had been the first headmaster in Sheikh School when it first opened in 1960. Since then the school was destroyed in the hostilities in the 1980s, but it’s now restored and has re-opened as an SOS Children’s school. We went to see it for ourselves.
Getting there was an interesting and sometimes challenging experience, involving a two day expedition from Hargeisa up into the hills. The roads varied enormously and were very poor to Berbera with numerous potholes. We were relieved to get onto the turn off to Sheikh and onto an excellent tarmac road.
The Village welcome was quite an experience and we were treated to a wonderful lunch and tour of the school. The children are all boarders as the location is some away from the town. We saw bright and clean bedrooms, with the girls and boys in separate houses. We met all the children at an assembly, where they were all really enthusiastic and had a thirst for learning which was quite inspiring.
About a third of the pupils were girls and many were being trained as teachers. We were impressed to learn that the teaching was all done in English, despite the local language being Somali. The schooling at Sheik is so good that many of the children we spoke to were hoping to go on to university.
Back in Hargeisa that evening, we looked forward to the next day when we were to visit the new SOS Children’s Village. This has only been running for about three years. The whole complex was very smart indeed with brightly painted houses, a new nursery school and well equipped medical centre which was very busy at the time.
The Village is in stark contrast to the poverty we saw in the town itself, with many of the population living in make-shift tents scattered around. Again, we were made very welcome by the principal Abdirahman Karie. We saw very happy, smiley children and overall we were very impressed with the dedication we saw around us.
Somaliland is in so much need of investment to rebuild it's infrastructure but it’s clear that a start has been made in education and health. We can’t wait to go back in 2013 and see how the children have grown up and taken advantage of the opportunities…
- "Can food labelling create better diets?”
Hannah Edwards, Press and External Communications Officer, SOS Children UK
This month, a new Fair Trade (FT) initiative was unveiled, where a Quick Response code on packets in supermarkets can be read by smart phones, telling consumers exactly where their coffee, cashew nuts or other FT items have been grown.
Detailed information will also be available about the producers or cooperatives and how FT benefits local communities. While such an initiative is very welcome, it comes at a time when a much greater food debate is emerging – can better food labelling and warnings about unhealthy ingredients improve our diets? Last month, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to food said not. Olivier De Schutter proclaimed “our food systems are making people sick”.
Since one in every seven people globally are undernourished and over one billion people are overweight or obese, it’s hard to disagree with Mr De Schutter. And as if developing countries didn’t have enough to cope with, the West is now exporting chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease worldwide. Four out of five deaths from chronic diseases now occur in low and middle income countries.
The Special Rapporteur blamed “urbanization, supermarketization and the spread of modern lifestyles” for the international “health disaster” which has been created. Mr De Schutter said it was time to recognise the world could no longer defer “to food companies the responsibility for ensuring that a good nutritional balance emerges”.
Policies pursued since the Second World War have focused on the production of cheap calories, but little has been done to check what kind of calories are being made available. This has led to an abundance of processed foods, which are often cheap and more appealing. Consequently, diets are becoming unhealthy even in poor countries, as people begin to rely on foods richer in saturated and trans-fatty acids, salts and sugars.
So what is the solution? Presenting his report on nutrition to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr De Schutter suggested it was time for governments to take responsibility and identified five priority actions – taxing unhealthy products, regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar, limiting junk food advertising, overhauling the food subsidies system and supporting local food producers.
Some in the West will argue such government measures should be limited, because they meddle in market economies and introduce a “nanny state”, where individuals are not allowed to decide for themselves what they eat and drink. However, by heavily subsidising certain produce grown by farmers, governments have already ‘meddled’ in market economics. Thanks to cheap subsidized ingredients, processed foods can be produced and distributed on a huge scale and made available at lower prices than fresh local vegetables and fruit.
As for the charge of creating a “nanny state”, maybe there is an element of truth in the fact that people need to be ‘guided’ to make the right choices. But it’s also a question of rebalancing a highly-skewed consumer environment. Take the USA as an example – in 2010, companies spent 8.5 billion dollars on advertising food, sweets and non-alcoholic drinks. This compared to a budget of just 44 million dollars on a healthy eating programme sponsored by the US government. From these numbers, it isn’t difficult to see that as food consumers, currently we’re not engaged in a fair fight.