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Somalis Fear Adverse Impact On Healthcare After MSF Pullout

posted 27 Aug 2013, 04:53 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Aug 2013, 04:54 ]

Hospitals in Somalia feel the loss after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) quit operations because of attacks on its staff. The withdrawal is not only a blow to the government's effort to persuade Somalis and foreign donors that security is improving despite a stubborn Islamist insurgency, but also to the health sector.

 MOGADISHUSOMALIA (AUGUST 24, 2013) (REUTERS) -  At a local hospital in Somalia's capital MogadishuMaka Farah sits by a bedside cradling her sick and malnourished grandson.

She has brought him here for treatment from the Badbaado refugee camp just outside the city. But she says there aren't enough medical supplies and she cannot afford the medication he needs.

Recently, international medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced the closure all of its humanitarian operations in Somalia because of attacks on its staff.

Residents like Maka Farah fear that this will place further strain on an already struggling health care system.

"I came to the hospital with a child suffering from malnutrition from the Badbaado camp and the hospital could not provide what our child needs and we cannot afford to buy medicine for our children," said Maka Farah.

The announcement came about a month after two female Spanish aid workers employed by MSF -- also known as Doctors Without Borders -- were freed by their Somali kidnappers after almost two years in captivity.

Sixteen MSF staff members have been killed in Somalia since 1991 when civil war erupted, but the charity stayed on, negotiating with militant groups and resorting to hiring armed guards, something it does not do in any other country.

Maryan Mohamed who comes from the Hiran region in the south says they no longer have medical facilities in her home town.

"My son is suffering from chest pains. We travelled from the Hiran region after aid agencies left there. We used to have a good healthcare before the agencies shut down all their hospitals in the region," says Maryan Mohamed.

The government is struggling to haul the nation out of two decades of conflict and provides few public services such as health and education.

"It will have a great impact because we have a good relationship with MSF and things will get worse if other international aid agencies will not fill the gap. As I predicted, the Somali government has called for MSF to reopen its operations inSomalia," says Dr. Lul Mohamed, Head of Pediatric and Maternity Ward at the hospital.

Government officials expressed concern that MSF's departure will have an adverse effect on the health care system in the country. MSF had over 1500 staff working in a range of sectors.

"It is to hard to cope and help all the people who need medical treatment because there is no doubt that the Somali health system cannot afford to fill the gap. It has really affected the health care system for the Somali people," says Somali Government Spokesman, Ridwan Haji Abdiweli.

The withdrawal of MSF is a blow to the Somali government's effort to persuade Somalis and foreign donors that security is improving and a stubborn Islamist insurgency is on the wane.