The event in Cardiff on December 15 will include an appeal to help mental health services in Somaliland, the self-declared independent state
Wales’s Somali community has issued a thank you to Wales for welcoming them when they fled civil war in the 1980s and 1990s as it launches a fresh appeal for help re-building their country.
More than 75 delegates, including Cardiff South MP Stephen Doughty and South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael, will attend an event in Cardiff’s City Hall on Wednesday to raise awareness about the African country and to say thank you to the people of Cardiff and Wales for their historic support.
Appeal to help Somaliland
People in Cardiff have raised £90,000 of a total £100,000 across the UK for an appeal launched by Welsh Somalis in the city to help people in Somaliland with mental health problems – a health crisis that has escalated as a result of war and poverty, fund raisers say.
Money collected will be used to help build and equip two hospitals, as well as supplying them with medicine for a year. Funds for a new mental health unit in the capital Hargeisa have also already been raised.
War and poverty have caused mental illness
The Welsh Somali community is more than 150 years old and in May 2015 Cardiff City Council became the second British local authority to recognize Somaliland , the relatively peaceful north of Somalia, as an independent country in its own right.
Eid Ali Ahmed, who is helping organize the event in City Hall, said Cardiff had always been welcoming and the community wanted to hold the event to raise awareness about the country’s past and present as well as the fund raising appeal.
War, violence and poverty have had a profound effect on mental health issues in Somaliland and tackling this was essential in efforts to re-build the country which borders Ethiopia.
‘We would like to thank Wales’
In a message of thanks to Wales former banker Eid, who fled to Cardiff in the late 1980s after opposing dictator Siyad Barre, said: “We would like to thank Wales for the support in the dark days. Now we need support to rebuild the country and we are appealing for donation to meet the needs of those in Somaliland who are suffering from mental health problems.
“Politicians and The South Wales Echo and Western Mail helped unmask atrocities inflicted on Somaliland People during the 1980s and now we looking the support and sponsorship of this Appeal.”
Eid and other fund raisers from the Somaliland Mental Health Support Organization, supported by Hub Cymru Africa, have already visited Somaliland to carry out workshops on mental health and help set up projects to improve services.
Wednesday’s event is also to raise awareness in general about Somaliland among the general population and the younger generation of Somalis in Wales, Eid, who helped found the Welsh Refugee Council, said.
“We will be showing the background of atrocities and the trauma of the country and mental health problems compounded by war. Every family suffers from it. The effect of war and now poverty and drought also affect mental health. Mental health is a Cinderella issue at the best of times, but especially when you are trying to rebuild a country.”
Cardiff event open to the public
Official figures from the 2011 Census show there are 1,327 people describing themselves as Somali or Somalilander in Wales – the biggest community outside London.
However the community, and some researchers, say the figure is closer to between 7,000 and 10,000 with some families in the fourth generation.
Somalis first came to Cardiff in significant numbers to work at the docks in the late 19th century. More came during the civil war between north and south Somalia in the 1980s and 1990s.
Those from the now relatively peaceful north, including Eid, refer to their self declared independent state as Somaliland and are lobbying for international recognition which they say would help them gain access to vital business and education opportunities as well as aid.
* The event is open to the public but must places must be booked by emailing organizers on: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Donations to the Somaliland Mental Health Support Organisation can be made via the Royal Bank of Scotland at account number: 100055152 and sort code: 16-15-23 or directly to the organization at Enterprise Unit 3, Loudon Square, Plas Lina, Cardiff CF10 5HW.