“I am thrilled that our work in Somaliland has been recognised—it was very much a team effort and I am very fortunate to be able to count on the unstinting support of our programme staff.“

Jane Strangways, Programme Manager, HALO Somaliland

The HALO family is delighted that our programme manager in Somaliland, Jane Strangways, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours for services to the COVID-19 response in Somaliland.

As the COVID pandemic spread across the world, Jane and her team in Somaliland were acutely aware that the region had few medical resources or infrastructure to respond to a crisis on this scale. In Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, there were just two ambulances to transport COVID-19 patients for a population of 1.2 million people. There was only one coronavirus treatment centre, the ATU Daryeel Hospital. Medics there had no protective visors and even the staff bus was broken.

HALO has worked in Somaliland for 21 years and our team of national and international staff were determined to mobilise HALO's resources to support the government in a co-ordinated response to the virus.

“Continuing our core activities in the Horn of Africa during the COVID outbreak meant that we were well placed to assist with the national response where we could, and I was very proud of our staff for stepping up to be a part of that.”

Jane Strangways, Programme Manager, HALO Somaliland

Protecting the Vulnerable

Led by Jane, our team provided strategic advice to the Regional Medical Office and the Ministry of Health. At Hargeisia Group Hospital—the only medical centre in Somaliland with the capability to test for coronavirus—HALO teams established a triage facility. HALO ambulances, normally used to support demining programmes, began to transport COVID-19 patients—working with MSF to train drivers in infection control. Medics at the ATU hospital had no protective visors, so HALO manufactured PPE from its own resources, repaired the staff bus and set up accommodation facilities so doctors and nurses could rest between shifts.

On the Tog Wajaale border, a crucial trade point on the Somaliland - Ethiopia border, HALO partnered with Trade Mark East Africa to meet an urgent request from the Ministry of Health for support with infection control and our community team adapted its landmine awareness capacity to deliver public health messaging.

In recognising the tremendous effort of Jane and her team throughout the long months of the COVID-19 crisis, HALO’s CEO James Cowan said:

“HALO might have closed in on itself, or even have closed completely, but Jane and the Somaliland team decided to work with the crisis and not give into it. The award recognises not only Jane's tremendous leadership, but the efforts of all our staff in Somaliland at a very difficult time. HALO’s contribution was not only to sustain its life-saving mine clearance work, but also to support the COVID-19 response."

James Cowan, HALO CEO