Somalia’s Healthcare System: The Current Landscape and the Solutions We Need


Healthcare provision in Somalia is a patchwork of solutions. While the situation has improved since the war, services are often expensive and, unfortunately, not entirely trusted by the public.

Less than 30% of Somalis have access to health services and only 11% of children receive basic vaccinations. COVID-19 has laid bare the vulnerability of our healthcare infrastructure and we need assistance.

With the continuing effects of the drought, a famine is occurring which is increasing the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This increases pressure on our already stretched urban health systems. While we need to quickly respond in the short term, we need to start looking toward creating sustainable, long-term healthcare infrastructure as well.

During the pandemic, the Hormuud Salaam Foundation (HSF) made a concerted effort to support healthcare provision. By opening the first oxygen plant in the country, we are keenly aware of the sharp need for more long-term, rather than ad-hoc solutions.

Healthcare is a human right, and right now we need more international support, as Somalia sits on the brink of a healthcare crisis. We have to collaborate and double down.

We should be working to harness local expertise, and champion health leaders to come up with localized solutions. At HSF we pride ourselves on following the advice of our practitioner partners.

When the director of Banadir Hospital reached out noting the need for oxygen during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, we initially donated 3,000 oxygen cylinders to hospitals around the country. But that wasn’t enough. Our struggle to source oxygen encouraged us to purchase Somalia’s first oxygen plant to create a self-sufficient supply in the country.

Somalia needs an injection of capital that looks to foster long-term facilities and sustainable healthcare capacity-building – we need to balance emergency support while putting long-term infrastructure in place, like the dialysis machines HSF donated to Erdogan Teaching and Training Hospital.

In Somalia, there is limited availability of medicines; evidenced by providers prescribing inappropriate treatments, overcharging, and the general confusion around accessing services as most facilities are private.

Some NGOs do offer free support, but they often address short-term emergency needs. The WHO states that primary healthcare needs to be the main approach. Health outcomes will improve when whole-person care is supported throughout an individual’s lifespan. For this approach to be implemented, we need sustained, international support in tandem with local expertise that looks to the future.

Now more than ever, we need the international community to step up and support Somalia in our time of need. International warnings can no longer be ignored – the UN independent expert on human rights in Somalia, Isha Dyfan, has raised the alarm regarding Somalia’s healthcare services. Access to healthcare remains low and Somalia needs your support.

Dyfan’s call is a one in a long line of warnings, and we need to heed it. We will continue to collaborate and information-share as organizations like ours are aware of the issues plaguing our healthcare system.

There are also many local foundations that can offer know-how and context. We are in Somalia’s next crisis, which can be mitigated with sustained support, in addition to immediate relief. What is the international community waiting for?

Abdullahi Nur Osman is the CEO of the Hormuud Salaam Foundation.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Garowe Online's editorial policy.

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