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Halhal: Provision of Social Services in Remote Areas

Like many remote areas in Eritrea, Halhal sub-zone did not have visible social services in the past as the inhabitants of the sub-zone were living in dispersed locations.


But through development projects in the post-independence period, the people of the sub-zone have been getting basic social services and their living standards have been improving.

Halhal sub-zone borders Hamelmalo sub-zone in the East, Asmat sub-zone in the west, Agaz sub-zone in the South and Habero sub-zone in the North. It has around 32,000 inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants, making up 90% of the total population, earn their living as farmers and as pastoralists while 10% are engaged in trade.

The grains that are commonly grown on the highlands of the sub-zone are sorghum, millet and maize while cash crops like sesame and flax are cultivated in the low-land areas.

Although subsistence farming is mostly practised in the sub- zone, a large part is favorable for pastoral activities. During the rainy season, the inhabitants of the sub-zone tend their cattle in the areas that border Hagaz sub-zone.

There is abundant rain in the sub-zone during the rainy season. For this reason, the agricultural produce in the sub-zone is quite plenty, and the trade activities are mainly dominated by agricultural products.

Halhal sub-zone has eight administrative areas. Six of the administrative areas are situated near the main road that cuts through Asmat.

Social services have been provided not only in the urban areas but also in the remote rural areas of the sub-zone. The Government has constructed strategic dirt roads in a bid to strengthen the provision of social services in the area, and the residents of the area have played roles in the construction of roads.

Gebey-Lebu and Mearki administrative areas have not benefited from the development projects so far implemented in the sub-zone, particularly in transportation service. The residents of the area are doing their level best in the construction of dirt roads in order to alleviate the problem.

There was hardly any school in the sub-zone in the pre-independence period. This time all administrative areas have access to schools in their vicinities, including those in remote locations. Halhal and Melebso, for instance, have secondary schools while the other administrative areas have access to primary and junior secondary education.

In terms of health care, three healthcare centers have been offering services in Melebso, Gebey-lebu and Kertset. The reduction of maternal and child mortality virtually to zero level is the greatest achievement registered in the healthcare service.

The provision of potable water in the sub-zone, which covers around 80% of the total area of the sub-zone, is commendable. Mai-Walet, Kertset, Melebso and Rehiet are blessed with abundant water supply. Rakobet is, however, riddled with deficit of water. According to Mr. Ghrmatsion Abrha, Administrator of the Sub-zone, the six administrative areas of the sub-zone have good supply of water while two administrative areas are still facing challenges.

Halhal administrative area has suitable farm fields particularly in Gengerieb and Hagaz areas. Around 80% of their food supply in the sub-zone is grown during the rainy season. Four administrative areas that are close to the Barka River tend their cattle around the river banks. They do not have deficit of animal feed.

As regards indigenous vegetation, the area used to be home to olive trees. But, a large area of Halhal sub-zone, particularly in Melebso, was cleared for the construction of trenches by colonial powers.

In the post-independence period, soil and water conservation campaigns undertaken resulted in the redressing of the area with vegetation.

As the residents of the areas used to lead a nomadic life style, resettlement programs have been introduced in a bid to enable the people of the sub-zone have easy access to social services. Accordingly, Mr. Ghrmatsion said, a master plan has been designed to resettle some residents in the areas where they can benefit from the provisions of social services. The most challenging aspect of regrouping villages has been the distance between the residential areas and the farm fields.

Transport and communications service has also been steadily improving. This time, public transport service is being offered in Kertset, Melebso and Halhal. Telecommunication towers have been installed in all areas that stretch towards Asmat sub-zone. Above 90% of the residents of the areas are currently enjoying telecommunication services.

All in all, Halhal sub-zone has been witnessing steady progress in all domains. But a few areas have not yet been getting access to social services. The efforts so far exerted in the distribution of a wide range of services have enabled the regrouping of small villages in central areas where they can find viable service. Some problems will be, of course, alleviated with the construction of dams in Halhal and Mai-Awalid.

Mr. Ghrmatsion says they are looking forward to the construction of dams in Kertset, Fenchbuku, Minabuku and in all areas that suffer from acute shortage of water.

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