Thousands of business owners in this breakaway region of Somalia have been left penniless after a massive fire swept through the sprawling Waheen market, engulfing hundreds of stores, stalls and restaurants.
- Officials say the fire caused up to $2 billion in damages
- 2,000 businesses destroyed, over 17,000 workers affected
- Somalilanders, diaspora rally to raise funds in support
By Mohammed Omer
GAROWE, Somalia, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Three weeks ago, Amina Mahmud was a successful businesswoman running a butcher’s shop selling camel meat and a thriving homewares store in Somaliland’s commercial hub, Waheen market.
Trade was good.
The 41-year-old earned more than $2,700 a month, enough to raise seven children single-handed and win the respect of her community over two decades of graft in the capital of Hargeisa.
Today, she stands under the midday sun near the gutted ruins of her old shop, behind a paltry offering of a few bananas and cabbages scattered over a wooden table. No match for her old display of camel cuts, nor her stock of household appliances.
“My life is starting from scratch because everything I had was taken away by the fire,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from central Hargeisa.
“I am the only breadwinner. I am here selling the little I have left. I could not just sit back and wait for handouts,” said Mahmud who had $10,000 worth of property destroyed.
Thousands of business owners in this breakaway region of Somalia have been left penniless after a massive fire swept through the sprawling Waheen market, engulfing hundreds of stores, stalls and restaurants on the eve of Ramadan.
The cause of the April 1 blaze – which raged for nearly 12 hours – is still under investigation; authorities say 27 people were hurt and some 2,000 small businesses damaged or destroyed.
Financial losses are estimated at up to $2 billion – a tremendous blow to the self-declared Horn of Africa nation and one of the poorest countries in the world.
Somaliland’s chamber of commerce said the losses accounted for 40 to 50% of Hargeisa’s economy.