THE autonomous Somali region of Somaliland launched an international appeal on Wednesday for $2bn in aid after a huge fire destroyed the main market in the capital Hargeisa, wiping out hundreds of businesses and devastating the local economy.
The blaze broke out on Friday evening and swiftly engulfed the sprawling Waheen market, injuring more than two dozen people but causing no loss of life.
‘We are launching for a combined $2bn to urgently deliver humanitarian and livelihood support to an estimated 5,000 small, medium and large family businesses,’ Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said in a statement issued in English.
He said the fire in one of the largest markets in the Horn of Africa had caused losses estimated at $2bn, or around 60 percent of Somaliland’s gross domestic product.
An investigation team is looking into the cause of the fire and its report is expected to be disclosed to the media in the next few days, Abdi added.
‘This is an emergency of the highest magnitude and time is of the essence,’ he said.
Several countries including Britain, which once ruled Somaliland as a protectorate, and neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti have offered support and sympathy over the disaster.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but the move has not been recognised by the international community, leaving the region of about four million people poor and isolated.
Its GDP in 2020 was just over $2.9bn, shrinking 3.1 percent from the previous year largely because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to official figures.
The breakaway region has however remained relatively stable while Somalia has been wracked by decades of political violence and an Islamist insurgency.