ERITREA – As the Pearl of Red Sea Glows

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As the Pearl of Red Sea Glows -Massawa

The port city of Massawa is known for its hot climate for most months, except when the year ends and a new one starts. I noticed this while I was in the historic place for a work visit last week and saw people walking in the streets in numbers enjoying the air more than they did in previous months.

The night I arrived in the city a warm wind welcomed me as if to say “from now onwards it is time to relax”. The next morning I went straight to the place I came for, the regional administration of the Northern Red Sea region, and asked for the current status of the city, life in it and its people.

I came to know the city holds 10,796 households and around 37,700 lives in it. According to Mr. Kidane Weldesillasie, Governor of the region, there are five sub-zonal administrations divided further into 31 districts. The inhabitants of Massawa are from the Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Afar and Rashaida ethnic groups. The life of people in the region and the city of Massawa depends on trade and commerce, fishing and some agricultural activities along with livestock in the suburban towns of Dogoli, Emberemi and Hirghigo. Agricultural activities are conducted in these suburban towns through irrigation by diverting highland rivers. As a port city, Massawa serves as a hub for the import and export of products. In line with this, labor-intensive job opportunities are available in the port for the inhabitants of the region. The big factories such of Cement, Plastic and Ice located in Massawa enable inhabitants to sustain their lives.

Regarding health status in the region, the Governor said that the health service provided for people of the region is in good form. There are around nine health facilities – a hospital in Grar, 1 health center, 2 clinics and small village clinics in the suburban towns. Many health campaigns on communicable (Malaria, TB, and HIV) and non-communicable (Blood Pressure, Diabetics and Asthma) diseases are carried out periodically to raise the awareness of the people. This has resulted in less reliance on traditional health practices. Village community health representatives are doing a fine job in enhancing the health status of the people and the people are visiting heath centers more frequently.

The regional administration has been struggling for years to ensure safe drinking water for the people. Massawa is now getting pure potable water. The water supply and sanitation factory administered by a board, where the regional administration is a member, makes sure people get pure drinking water and ensures underground water is reserved in Dogoli. The factory regularly controls the status and maintains the pipelines that come straight to Massawa. In the villages that are under the administration, water from wells is pumped using generators and solar energy to give the people access to safe drinking water.

To maintain the beauty of the city, fight pollution and provide shades to the people, the regional administration has a plan to plant trees on the road side of most of the streets. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the administration has been planting trees periodically in the city streets. A committee is selected to control and combat pollution of the sea and the environment by man-made wastes and dusts. Every week Saturday is reserved for the sanitation of the city.

Electricity is equitably supplied to the region’s people. Massawa gets power supply that contributes to the security and beauty of the city. The electrification of other villages is also underway.

Visitors of Massawa are mainly holiday makers and business people. Its historic landmarks; the sea, the clean environment and the hot climate make Massawa a tourist destination. Local tourism is regularly seen as people pay a visit to the islands collectively. Visitors get know the diverse resources found above and beneath the water surface. Visiting the factories in Massawa is now becoming customary. The weekends are the busiest days when visitors are seen in numbers. There are around 25 kms of asphalted roads (the second longest in the country) inside the city. Another 48 km asphalted road is a road gateway to the neighboring towns of Hirghigo, Dogoli, Gorgusum Beach Hotel and the Massawa International Airport. Moreover, a 10 km summer time road is available to give transportation services up to places such as Wekiro. In total there is around 73 km asphalted and summer time road in the sub region. Sea routes to Gel’alo and the Dahlak islands are also other transportation reliefs inhabitants get. Civil aviation and Rail way transportation are expected to continue their operation anytime soon.

Apart from the well services and hospitalities the service industries they offer customers are regularly heard for complaints of higher price charges upon visit. In relation to this issue the Governor said that the concerned authority is working ceaselessly to control contraband goods that are fuelling the prices of consumer goods and services in the city. The authority is creating a platform to make transactions conducted between suppliers and service providers in a legal way which is expected to stabilize the prices.

In terms of education, there are 8000 registered students in all levels of schools. In the suburban towns such as Dogoli and others students used to travel to Massawa to go to high school but recently, there have been discussions with the Ministry of Education for new educational infrastructural arrangements in the surrounding areas to let students have access to education without much travel. Kindergartens were also not available for these towns. But this year, 163 new students are registered. Overall, there are 519 students in kindergarten, 3963 in elementary, 1956 in middle school, and 1390 in high school, 181 in adult education, 148 students in the evening class and 329 in illiteracy eradication program. In the last four years around 15 million Nakfa was spent on infrastructural maintenance and on building new schools. In the current year, in the Kutmya Elementary school two classrooms were provided for kindergarten and in Hintblo two kindergarten were built that particularly focus on physically challenged students. In the suburban towns the administration has discussions with the inhabitants to encourage their children to go to school and also increase female enrollment in school. The Governor of the NRS region said that efforts to promote education in the region is yielding good results. Of all the region’s Matriculation participants last year 54% passed.

With the big government led projects, the tourism potential and the free trade zone, Massawa is not only a center of attraction locally but, it has the potential to be horn of Africa’s attraction spot. The Governor, Mr. Kidane, invites people to visit the city and give comments on the shortages they face during on their visits.