Community engagement in Somalia
The nature of the explosive threat mitigation work SafeLane undertakes can of course be dangerous – community engagement is therefore critical for several key reasons...
Firstly, when working in areas contaminated with explosive remnants of war (ERW), it is imperative all local people who may encounter this threat understand the risks these items pose.
Internationally, we carry out regular explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) sessions in schools and local communities for example. And in the UK and Germany, we conduct toolbox talks with those most at risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO) such as construction workers.
Secondly, on many of our international projects, the local community often has invaluable insight into areas contaminated, where there could be stockpiles and also which areas may need to be assessed first to assist local people with getting their lives back to normal. You can explore these themes in our article about community engagement in Western Sahara, where Bedouin communities have helped our staff identify and clear paths to critical water wells.
One nation where our community engagement efforts go even further is Somalia. Having been operational there since 2016, we have deeply embedded community links that support the achievement of our mission and the lives and livelihoods of local people.
Benefitting from the talents of local people in Somalia
Essential to the smooth delivery of all project objectives in Somalia is the fact we have well-established logistics and recruitment partnerships locally and employ local personnel and companies to support our operations.
We employ local national staff in many full and part-time roles, and use local construction talent regularly. Local tradespeople supported our initial camp establishment, and they regularly work with us when we set up in new locations to deploy out to a new site. Through utilising local talent, we support the generation of income for those who are often sole breadwinners within extended families.
We recently completed a construction exercise in Mogadishu on behalf of our humanitarian client to build a safe explosive storage area for the security forces; here again we employed local labourers to support both the ground preparation and construction sub-projects.
We have critical local supply chains in place with service providers too, and have a dedicated pool of suppliers who we use for our weekly and monthly ration resupplies. These partnerships are symbiotic as they directly support our project staff, positively impact the livelihoods of those who supply us – and ultimately the financial benefits trickle down further into the economy as well.
Building a mutually beneficial bridge in Somalia
When a critical bridge was damaged by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), it prevented the safe movement of the local community.
SafeLane’s engineering experts stepped up and designed and built a new bridge in order to reconnect two key forward operating bases. Primarily this bridge was to facilitate the safe movement of peacekeepers, but we knew it would also assist the local population in that area by providing them with a safe crossing of a waterway and avoid long detour by taking a busy and sometimes hazardous road.
Covid 19 – a global community approach
Everyone in the world has a role to play in ending the covid 19 pandemic. In Somalia, our wonderful humanitarian client has afforded us the opportunity of offering vaccines to all our staff – expatriate and local nationals alike – where the uptake has received a positive response.
This has helped to protect the individuals of course, but also the wider community in which everyone lives and works. Hopefully by taking up the vaccines when offered, all staff have supported a reduction in the chance of spreading covid. This is important to us due to the impact and exposure SafeLane personnel have interacting with multiple stakeholders within Somalia.
Why effective engagement benefits clients as well as communities
As part of our #SafeLaneSustainable commitment, we are passionate about protecting people, enhancing environments and achieving ambitions – therefore as our client, you can rely on the fact we will protect your reputation within the communities in which we work.
We prioritise effective communication and engagement with those alongside whom we will be living and working whilst on project, and have well developed education and support programmes that we roll out wherever we work. These are always adapted to the anticipated recipient to ensure they are accessible, respectful and appropriate.
If you would like to learn more, or discuss ways we can ensure your project success, please do get in touch – we look forward to hearing from you.
(The image of SafeLane HQ staff meeting colleagues in Somalia was taken pre-pandemic)