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|Somalilandís Health Care System Needs Special Attention!|
The Horn of Africa is one of the worldís regions where you donít want to be hospitalized for any reason, and unfortunately, Somaliland ranks the worst of all. Although not in the health care profession, I have noticed how Somalilandís health care system is disorganized, unregulated, and deteriorates day after day, when compared with other nations in the Horn of Africa, or for that matter, the rest of the world. In the ex-Somalia, the health care system was in fairly good condition within the capital of Mogadishu, but rest of the country suffered tremendously in all aspects of its infrastructure system including the health care system.
Mogadishu was overwhelmed with the construction of new hospitals from the 1960s to the last days of the old dictatorial regime. These new hospitals were outfitted with state of the art equipment, while Hargeisa, Buroa, and the rest of Somalia were overlooked by the dictatorship. Clearly, those who were part of that regime never looked back to their places of birth.
Paradoxically, Somaliland has some of the best doctors in the region. Most of them were trained either abroad or had extensive experience in Mogadishu hospitals. Many acquired plenty of experience during the civil war that devastated the country. However, today the health care infrastructure that would have allowed them to practice their profession is almost non-existent. The situation in Hargeisa is a good example. The Hargeisa General Hospital is the primary hospital for the cityís 650,000 residents and for those who come from the surrounding countryside seeking medical care. The British government built it when they were the colonial power and today remains substantially the same. There have been no improvements to it since that time, much less construction of new hospital facilities. The Edna Maternity Hospital stands out as a notable exception. We are all aware how this facility was made possible through the efforts and persistence of a single brave woman, Mrs. Edna Aden, who had far better vision than our so-called leaders. As Mrs. Ismail took the task of building maternity Hospital, we need a visionary who can establish a Children Hospital that is badly needed in the nation.
The health care system in Hargeisa is a reflection of the whole nation.
Today in Somaliland you can find almost any medical doctor or specialist in any field, but to access them, you must be in the capital and see that physician at their private clinic, or hope to see them during the few hours they volunteer in the General Hospital. As a result there are as many clinics as pharmacies in Hargeisa, since each doctor either owns or owns a share in that pharmacy. (While Iím not against doctors owning piece of the pie, there is a clear conflict of interest in this system. They should take high road and avoid using the medical needs of the infirm to reap outrageous profits for themselves.)
The health minister and health organizations that are there to assist the people of Somaliland should look deeply into the needs of the nationís hospitals and clinics and implement a decent plan to adequately equip each hospital and clinic with the basic necessities. The most obvious needs are basic surgical equipment and accessories that are currently bought by relatives of the patients who are admitted to hospital, or are in clinics for outpatient care. Medical equipment readily available in the private sector is simply unavailable at many public hospital or clinics. Itís embarrassing to realize Hargeisa General Hospital doesnít have oxygen bottles for those who are suffering oxygen deficiency in an emergency situation. As a visitor in Somaliland last August and a potential resident, I visited many hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, and saw the absence of the basic things we take for granted in hospital beds overseas such as oxygen supplies, heart monitors and routine medicines. Itís heartbreaking to watch people suffering needlessly from minor injuries due to lack of medical equipment and medicine that are readily available in rest of the world or, for that matter, in some pharmacies in the country, at prices the average Somali Lander cannot afford.
While these problems are not easy to solve without international assistance, the Somali government, the local NGOs, and citizens of Somaliland need to place emphasis on improvements to the health care system, including the development of programs to promote the rehabilitation of existing hospitals and clinics. Last but not least, the health care system in Somaliland can only be improved if doctors act as doctors instead of as businessmen who are primarily interested in their profits, and if the legislature came up with statutes to regulate the importation of medicine and equipment into this country.
Eng: Abdirizak M. Farah, (Abdi wiiwaa)
Hercules, CA 94547