Somalia: Attacks Cripple Phone Services in Areas On Somali-Kenyan Border

Al-Shabaab fighters

Residents of Hullugho in Garissa County along the border with Somalia have said that a poor communication network has made their lives difficult for many years now.

The situation has been made worse by constant attacks by suspected Al-Shabaab militants who destroy communication masts put up by mobile service providers.

Hullugho is situated 18 kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border.

Residents say their daily lives have literally been turned upside down as they are forced to trek for miles to make telephone calls. They are also forced to travel to other towns to use mobile money transfer services.

The lucky and youthful ones scale up trees to get the better network on their mobile phones.

"Lack of communication has thrown us ten years back. All sectors including education, health and business are affected. There is an urgent need for the restoration of network coverage," Mohamed Samriye told Daily Nation in Ijara.

The former civic leader told Nation that many people have closed business thus affecting the local economy. He added that communication is a basic need that every developing country should prioritise on.

Mr Samriye said all elected leaders starting with the President should ensure the restoration of network coverage in the area, noting that lack of it will contribute to underdevelopment.

"We need local leaders to come down to the areas affected by lack of network coverage so that they know the dilemma their electorates are facing," he added.

The Nation could count numerous M-Pesa shops and vegetable stalls that have been closed down following the destruction of communication masts, with residents saying they depend on mobile network coverage for their business.

The Somali-based militants have destroyed several communication masts along the Kenya-Somalia border leaving residents of Hulugho, Fafi, Ijara, Sangailu and some parts of Dadaab in desperation.

Two weeks ago, the militants damaged a Safaricom mast in Hamey, Dadaab.

"It has been difficult without network coverage. Even if you get an emergency there is no way you can alert your neighbours for help. We urgently need the government in collaboration with mobile service providers to re-install communication masts," said other residents, Mr Ali Mirat Dahir.

Referrals of patients for specialised treatment from border towns have also been adversely affected and it is even worse for mothers in labour who have complications.

Mr Mohamed Gure almost lost his daughter after she went into labour but had delivery complications.

Since there was no network coverage, they opted to send a boda-boda rider to alert health officials to send an ambulance from Masalani, some 60 kilometres away.

"By the time the boda-boda came back with the ambulance, my daughter had delivered but the baby died after delivery because of what we think was prolonged labour pain," he said.

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