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Wajir governor should tone down on massive PR campaign and listen to the needs of the people



By: Filsan Abdullahi

Mama Abdia Harun is a mother of  two sons and a daughter. She lives in Bula Jogoo neighbourhood of Wajir town.

Widowed in 1995, Mama Abdia now lives alone and has to work 14 hours daily to fend for herself. She suffers from blood pressure and  chronic stomach ulcers. She occasionally falls sick, but has to work anyway since her employer wouldn’t allow her to take medical leave. She earns a paltry sh 8000 ($80) at the end of the month. She’s the head cook at the local girls secondary school.

I asked if she has any medical cover; if she’s ever visited any county government hospital and the questions I was asking, unfortunately, all appeared foreign to her.

Mama Abdia represents majority of Wajir County residents: uneducated, relatively poor and largely forgotten.

“Hooyo, (a Somali word for mother) who cares for the poor?” she asked.

Who cares for the poor?

“Allah is watching and He cares,” I consoled her.

The governor of Wajir Ahmed Abdullahi came to Stockholm, Sweden this time last year to meet with the Diaspora community of the Wajir people and the larger North Eastern residents. He informed the gathering that Wajir was raising. He told us that Wajir county was ripe for investment. He said that he was setting up infrastructure to ease movement. He invited us to Wajir County.

A year after the open invitation, I returned to my hometown—17 years after I left—to witness the difference county system brought in.

I was surprised at the speedy development of infrastructure: 28 kilometers of tarmac road within Wajir town and  a Level-Five hospital. The town that only knew a District Commissioner, representing the Office of the President, was now a government headquarter of itself.

But that is the much of an image you get of Wajir County if you rely on social media to keep yourself abreast of what is happening in your beloved county. You need to go to the distant villages in Wajir town, or the far-flung settlements in the county to understand how life has not changed much for the ordinary person four years after the inception of county system.

wajir tarmc

Part of the 28 kilometer road built by the County Government of Wajir. PHOTO: Kulan Post

When sh 1.3 billion tarmac road passes infront a woman nursing chronic diseases, a young man who cannot secure  a job four years after he’d left college, a mother singing lullaby to a hungry child and to an old man trying to educate his child through to high school, that’s when you will realise that a tarmac road is the least important thing they want to consider a development.

It beats logic in every sense of the word to set up roads—costly tarmac roads—when 98 percent of people in Wajir County cannot afford a vehicle. It makes no sense to Mama Abdia when there is a well-built, beautiful health facility in her hometown, but she has to dash to the village chemist  to buy over-the-counter pills to control her condition.

Such a road leads to nowhere, as one scholar from Wajir County recently put it.

After attack by a clan militia at a village in Eldas late last month, six-year old Halima had to wait 48-hours to get an airlift to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, 700 kilometers South-West of Wajir. She was admitted with a life-threatening gunshot injury.

Halima survives on a blood transfusion as she awaits an airlift on Monday to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. Photo/ Courtesy

Halima survives on a blood transfusion as she awaits an airlift on Monday to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. Photo/ Courtesy

One billion shillings could provide the medical attention needed by Mama Abdia and the six-year old Halima. One billion can facilitate a health insurance for the 600,000-plus people in Wajir County. It can bring specialists and trained medical doctors at the county refferal hospital. We could set up dispensary at every village and hamlet in the county. Sh1 billion is enough to hire teachers and nurses.

It could offer education bursury to the thousands of college students missing classes due to lack of fees.

Wajir governor played a tactful political game when he invested in infrastructure that adds no direct value to the lives of the majority, but can be used as a tool of campaign. To the majority, the tarmac road is like a beautiful, empty plate served to a hungry man.

Ideally, a hungry man hates empty plate.

Filsan Abdullahi lives in Stockholm, Sweden. She is pursuing postgraduate studies in Architecture at the Royal Institue of Arts.


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