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World Health Worker Week 2015: A conversation with a Somali Health Worker in Kismayo, Somalia

Apr 7, 2015

Farah Mohamed, UW Social Work and MPH Intern

Welcome back to our weeklong series commemorating World Health Worker Week 2015!  All week we are looking at different issues and challenges that health workers face around the world – and the best way that we as advocates can call for improved working conditions and increased workforce. 

Today, Farah Mohammed, a social work intern at HAI-Seattle, talks with a Somalian colleague on his experiences working in what can be very difficult terrain.  Somalia faces a severe health worker crisis, with 0.4 doctors and 1.1 nurse/midwives per 10,000 population (just for comparison, the US has 24.2 doctors and 98.2 nurse/midwives per 10,000 population) (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation).

Kasim Sirad Gedi is a Somali health worker who lives in Kismayo, Somalia. He works with the internally displaced populations, returning refugees and other vulnerable populations in Kismayo town focusing on maternal and child health services. I talked with Sirad in the week leading up to World Health Worker Week 2015 to get his perspective on the state of health in Kismayo and in Somalia in general.Somalia Map

Sirad said that health care workers in Somalia are resilient and selfless people who are determined to provide basic health care services to war-torn populations for the last 25 years. However, the challenges many health care workers face in Somalia are enormous!

Inadequate medical supplies, poor infrastructure and lack of compensation are some of the most pressing challenges health workers face in his region. Although some medical supplies are provided by non-profit organizations, they are usually not sufficient to cover the needs of the impoverished populations. Health facilities often lack basic supplies and equipment, which means that health workers are not able to sufficiently render their services to people who badly need them. There is not a single x-ray machine in the health facilities of Kismayo, a district with a population of more 180,000. Surrounding areas adjacent to Kismayo are controlled by Al-Shabab and health workers can’t operate freely in those areas, and sometimes they risk their lives.

Despite those challenges, Sirad is strongly optimistic that one-day things will improve in Somalia and health workers will operate a well functioning health facilities equipped with latest technologies, adequate medical supplies and improved infrastructure. At the moment, helping his people is what matters to him most.

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Our mission is to promote policies and support programs that strengthen government primary health care and foster social, economic, and health equity for all. Our vision is a just world that promotes health and well-being, including universal access to quality health care.

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Health Alliance International began in 1987 as a US-based international solidarity organization committed to supporting the public sector provision of health care for all.  Over 35 years, HAI conducted programs in 17 countries, with flagship programs in Mozambique, Côte d'Ivoire, and Timor-Leste.

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