The improvement in public hygiene was undertaken not only through administrative controls, but also through public education, which disseminated ideas and practices on the prevention of diseases, the improvement of infant welfare, sanitation, water supplies, and food hygiene in the homes, restaurants, and teashops. As one colonial report put it, the department regularly “arranges propaganda talks and health education to prevent diseases and raise the standard of general health of the people.”165 Various institutions played a role in public health education: radio Hargeysa, community centers, film shows, and “War Somali Sidihii,”–the main newspaper. Radio Hargeysa regularly held talks on such topics as the “Your Health,” and “How to Prevent T.B.” Ideas about disease prevention were also disseminated through booklets, such as 1958, “Healthy Living,”166 which was made available in bookshops, community centers, and was even used as a reader in adult education classes. Films, in addition, were used as a tool for the dissemination of public health standards. In 1958, for instance, the public health department produced with the cooperation of the Information Service, a short film on tuberculosis.167 Other films on the prevention of diseases, which were produced elsewhere, were also used. When such films were shown, members of the Somali public health staff read a prepared script as a voice-over. In Some cases, they added commentary as apposite. The medical department and the Information Service also produced in cooperation with other films on public hygiene, the dangers of venereal diseases, the preservation of water, and other topics. Most were instructional films. In the community centers, moreover, regular film shows, and discussions and debates on public health were held. These centers were “very popular” and were patronized by the public.168 In the hospitals and clinics the public health officers took full advantage over their contact with patients and gave them “Instruction in simple hygienic principles.”169

Meanwhile, the department undertook eradication campaigns characterized by “mass treatment”170 against various diseases. As Megan Vaughn pointed out “mass treatment” of the population against some diseases was a common feature of most eradication campaigns in colonial Africa.171 A good example is the campaign against relapsing fever in 1949, 1950, and 1951. (Table 6 and Figure 1)

Epidemics And Public Health In Late Colonial SomalilandThe spraying campaigns were systematic. They involved the entry into and search of all houses, cafes, mosques, shops, and restaurants in order to determine the number of ticks found in each place, and then to eradicate the ticks through spraying. Dust was removed from each premise, spread upon a well-lighted smooth surface, and then the ticks were counted. Satisfied that the agent of the disease was prevalent, every building was sprayed with gammexane P.520 in three consecutive months. The first and second spraying of Hargeysa lasted from 28 November to 21 December 1950 and from 22 January to 17 February 1951, respectively. Odweina was sprayed in March and May 1952. Burao was sprayed in December 1949 and in January and February 1950. The first and second spraying in Burao were large-scale operations. The permanent houses sector, the mud-brick houses, and the hut sector were thoroughly sprayed. The final spraying was “carried out even though no ticks could be found in dwellings in searches done during the second campaign.” 173 The owners of shops, restaurants, and coffee houses were “loud in their praises and insisted that tick bites had ceased after the first spraying.”174

Epidemics And Public Health In Late Colonial Somaliland
Figure 1. Incidence of Relapsing Fever 172

The improvements in public health mitigated the impact of the diseases. But the successes of public health policies were always undermined by the steady and ever-increasing migration from the rural areas to the towns. Neither the public health department nor the central administration was happy with such migration. Colonial administrations throughout the continent were uncomfortable with the expansion of towns and cities, and with them, the infamous “detribalized” African. Colonial administrators and public health officers were therefore committed to minimizing migration from the rural areas–unless of course the labor of the African was needed in European economic enterprises. In Somaliland, both administrators and public health officers agreed that migration is the “greatest problem in the towns.”175 The problem was addressed directly and indirectly: (a) directly through the control of prostitution, and (b) indirectly through the 1947 and 1949 ordinances, which prohibited vagrancy. In general, three approaches were taken by medical and administrative institutions within the framework of the ordinances. The first approach was to discourage young people from leaving rural areas. The second was to deport young migrants back to the rural areas. The third was to control those who “cannot be detribalized” and “genuine orphans,” and train them to become “good citizens.”176 The first two approaches were a complete failure. Nothing concrete was done to actually limit the migration of young people to the towns. The administration knew that poverty and the “hope of work” was the impulse behind migration.177 The third approach was frustrated by the lack of resources. Besides, R. H. Smith stated, the problem of migration and the “beggar class ‘whether young or old,’ is present everywhere in the world, and is likely to increase until such time as the Somali becomes less dependent upon a purely pastoral livelihood.”178

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.