Hargeisa (Caasimada Online) – According to the United Nations’ emergency response agency, over 185,000 people have been displaced from their homes due to clashes in a disputed border town in Somaliland, a self-declared independent state in Somalia.
Somaliland has long been considered a model of stability in a turbulent region, having declared its independence from Somalia in 1991. However, recent months have seen a surge in political unrest, culminating in deadly violence between government forces and pro-Somalia militias in the contested town of LasAnod.
In spite of a declared ceasefire, reports of intense fighting continue to emerge, as stated in a release from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia on Thursday.
Root causes of the conflict
The latest fighting in Somaliland erupted in the contested town of LasAnod on February 6, with both Somaliland and neighboring Puntland claiming control over the area.
The violence was sparked by a statement issued by elders in the Sool region, pledging support for Somalia’s federal government and urging Somaliland authorities to withdraw their soldiers from the area.
Somaliland authorities responded by announcing a ceasefire on February 10. However, the situation escalated on February 14 when Somalia was accused of attacking its forces.
While Mogadishu did not respond directly to the allegations, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre called for “immediate access to humanitarian assistance” and welcomed the ceasefire.
The conflict in Somaliland is rooted in the region’s struggle for statehood and recognition, with Somaliland claiming independence from Somalia in 1991 but never being recognized internationally.
The region’s relative stability and economic progress have been seen as a beacon of hope in an otherwise chaotic region. However, its quest for statehood has yet to be recognized, leaving it poor and isolated.
Impact on the civilian population
The ongoing conflict in Somaliland has devastated the region’s civilian population, with over 185,000 people displaced and forced to flee their homes.
Women and children make up an estimated 89% of the displaced population, with many seeking shelter under trees or inside schools that have been forced to shut down due to the violence.
At LasAnod General Hospital, officials have reported 57 deaths, with 401 injured victims treated at four different hospitals.
In addition to the tens of thousands of people displaced inside Somaliland, more than 60,000 others have fled to Ethiopia’s Somali region to escape the violence, with an average of 1,000 people continuing to cross into Ethiopia each day.
The humanitarian crisis in Somaliland has been further compounded by a record drought in the Somali region following five failed rainy seasons.
Aid workers are struggling to respond to the situation due to inadequate resources, with many organizations calling for urgent funding to provide relief to those affected by the conflict.
Efforts to provide humanitarian assistance
Several organizations are working to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict in Somaliland, including the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).
OCHA has called for urgent funding to respond to the situation, while UNHCR spokeswoman Olga Sarrado Mur has highlighted the urgent need for emergency relief to support the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced.