The SSRA was founded in 1992 by a group of Somali and Swedish researchers, who had collaborated in research and training since the early 1980s, funded by the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC). After the civil war in Somalia, most of the participating Somali researchers have pursued their careers outside their home country, in Sweden or internationally.
The SSRA is a small non-for-profit, non-religious and non-political association. The aims of the association are to provide a forum for contacts between academics, professionals, and institutions in Somalia, Sweden, and others interested; to contribute in the reconstruction of academic institutions in Somalia and promote training and research cooperation with Sweden; and to collaborate with other organisation and groups engaged in humanitarian aid and development in Somalia. At present the SSRA has 47 members.
The focus of SSRA activities in development support has been on reproductive health Given one of the highest maternal mortality rates globally, a project to strengthen nursing/midwifery training in Somaliland was initiated in 2006 by SSRA together with the Somaliland Nursing Midwifery Association, SLNMA. After some introductory years, funded by ForumSyd, the Swedish part was taken over by the Dalarna University which established collaboration with the Hargeisa and Amoud universities for a Nurse/Midwifery Masters training programme, funded by Sida. In 2015, a first batch of 25 Somali students received their Masters Degrees in ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’ from the two universities, supervised by Somali and Swedish mentors/teachers.
SSRA supports the Network against Female Genital Mutilation in Somaliland (NAFIS), an umbrella organisation of 20 local NGOs active in the struggle against female genital mutilation (FGM). Since the original Forum Syd grant in 2011, SSRA's support has been used to set up FGM Support Centres at maternity clinics in Hargeisa, Boroma and Burao, the latter in 2015. Women suffering from complications of FGM are offered treatment by midwifes trained by the project, or referred to hospitals for surgery. Combining care and counselling with active community mobilisation helps to raise awareness of the negative effects of FGM and readiness to abandon the practice.The project is intended as a model for integration of FGM prevention and care into the public health system. Annika Johansson, social scientist and retired senior researcher from Karolinska Institutet, acts as SSRA's project coordinator.
Recently SSRA activities have been broadened. Many encouraging developments have taken place in Somalia/Somaliland. New universities and professional associations are gradually being built up. In 2013 Forum Syd gave project support for the organisation of the National Health Conference that took place in Mogadishu in November 2013. As of 2016 SSRA is involved in a new initiative called Somali-Swedish Collaboration in Research for Health. The aim of this collaboration is to strengthening the Somali applied research capacity in the building up the country’s healthcare system. The collaboration consists so far of five Swedish Universities and six Somali Universities.