Mogadishu — The piles of rubble and trash that litter Mogadishu's neighbourhoods are getting smaller thanks to a cleaning campaign mobilised by the Somali government and carried out by citizen volunteers.
The campaign started January 26th and will continue for one week, or longer if needed, to beautify and sanitise all 16 districts of the Benadir region.
Volunteers say they need no remuneration for their work, but to sweeten the deal, the federal government is offering cash prizes for the districts that make the most progress in the clean-up.
"I will reward the districts that take the first three spots in the Mogadishu cleaning competition," Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said on January 21st. "The winning district will get $15,000, the second district will get $10,000 and the third district will get $5,000."
The federal government has not yet disclosed the criteria for selecting the winners when the campaign ends on Friday (February 1st), or whether it will require the winning districts to spend the money on specific projects.
Benadir region sanitation department director Hussein Warsame Abtidon said cleaning operations are going well so far, with up to 200 volunteers taking part in each district.
"We want to complete the cleaning campaign in a week, but the time will be extended if necessary to make Mogadishu a clean and healthy city," he told Sabahi.
Abtidon said the campaign would make a big difference in the sanitary conditions in Mogadishu and that he is hopeful it will bring back the beauty of the city's heyday.
Districts competing for top prize
Omar Abdulle Osman, administrator of the Hilwa district, said the clean-up is going well in his area.
"I am optimistic that my district will win because we are making a great effort to improve the general sanitation of the Hilwa district," he told Sabahi. "If we win this competition, I promise all the volunteers will have the opportunity to decide what the money is used for."
Deqa Abdikadir, administrator of the Warta Nabada district, which was formerly known as Wardhigley, said the 200 volunteers cleaning her district do not expect any compensation for their efforts. Still, she hopes they will win.
"I am hopeful that the Warta Nabada district will get first place in this week-long Mogadishu cleaning competition," she said. "We will work hard to win."
The men and women volunteers taking part in the week-long campaign were selected and recommended by the elders in each neighbourhood, according to the district administrators. The volunteers work from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm daily and are dispatched to each neighbourhood in teams of 15 to 20.
Volunteer Osman Abdi, 36, said he wants to be part of the effort to restore cleanliness in Mogadishu, especially in Warta Nabada where he lives.
"No one is paying us for the clean-up operation we are conducting," he told Sabahi. "We want to clean our district to improve our lives because as the saying goes, 'disease is as close as the garbage nearby'."
Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Sheikh, a public health specialist, said the cleaning campaign is a small but very important start for the capital.
He said Mogadishu needs a much longer sanitation campaign because no one has attempted to clean the city in over 20 years. "A week is not enough to clean Mogadishu and it should be regularly scheduled," he told Sabahi
"I believe our biggest challenge is the unsanitary state of the whole country," he said. "We expect the new administration to address that problem."