Somalia comes bottom of another global list

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Every year the United Nations issues a Human Development Index which ranks countries from top to bottom in terms of life expectancy, education and per capita income. Until now, Somalia has not appeared on the list because it has been impossible to gather reliable data in a country wracked by more than 30 years of conflict, instability, drought and other challenges.

This year saw a significant breakthrough. The UN said it finally had enough meaningful information to include Somalia on the Index for the first time.

According to the UNDP’s Somalia Resident Representative Lionel Laurens, the “fruitful collaboration” between UN bodies and the Somali National Bureau of Statistics “shows how much progress has been achieved in recent years”.

However, Somalia’s inclusion on the list revealed how badly it is doing.

It came last, hardly a sign of progress.

The indignity of being on the bottom of the Human Development Index has angered some in the country.

Businessman Ibrahim Nolosha said, “We excel in trade compared to many African countries. We have a better quality of life. Somalia’s ranking on the list is unjust. I would suggest conducting more accurate assessments.”

Farhio Ali Hashi, who owns a clothing shop, shared Mr Nolosha’s opinions. “We are rebuilding our country after decades of war,” she said. “I don’t believe the report reflects fairly the situation in Somalia.”

Mr Laurens of the UNDP acknowledged that “much work remains to guarantee healthcare, education and prosperity for all Somalis in a context that remains fragile, particularly (given its) exposure to climate vulnerabilities”.

Somalia frequently comes at the top or bottom of global indexes. It regularly ranks first in lists of the world’s most corrupt countries and most failed or fragile states. It is always near the bottom in terms of gender equality.

The head of the Mogadishu-based think-tank, Somali Public Agenda, Mahad Wasuge, was not surprised Somalia ranked last in the Human Development Index but suggested urban health and educational facilities “might be better than those in some other cities in Africa”.

Mr Wasuge, who has worked in research for years, was doubtful about the quality of the information. “It is impossible to collect data in many areas of the country because of insecurity and other challenges,” he said. “For example, in many parts of Somalia, deaths are not recorded.” He suggested the world’s negative stereotyping of Somalia as a country of Islamist militants, pirates, war, drought and disease may have played a part in it ending up at the bottom of the list.

UNDP Somalia’s Conflict Prevention and Recovery Specialist, Saif Rhman, played a leadership role in the collection and management of data. Although the country came bottom of the list he said the fact it was on it at all was “very, very exciting, marking a new day for Somalia after thirty years”.

“The 2024 Human Development Report is historic because for the first time Somali data appears in the document, and that brings global trust.”

“Many Somalis may believe there is no significance to this,” he added. “But over the past five years Somalia’s National Bureau of Statistics had made tremendous efforts in updating data.”

The Somali government has been approached for comment.

Hinda Abdi Mohamoud is Deputy Editor of Bilan, Somalia’s first all-women media house, which is funded by the European Union through UNDP and hosted by Dalsan Media Group in Mogadishu.