The World Health Organization played a major role in training the Somali medical students who were among those killed and wounded in Thursday’s suicide bombing in Mogadishu Thursday.
The explosion occurred at the Shamo Hotel, where many students from Banadir University were about to receive their diplomas.
“I’m very sad,” says Dr. Eric Laroche, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health action in crisis. “I think of Somalia, I think of the Somali people. I think it’s a major blow to the nation’s medical fraternity.”
It takes six years to produce a doctor, he says, and “within a fraction of a second, all that has disappeared.”
A week ago, Dr. Laroche was in Somalia and met with the minister of health. They expressed pride that they “were able to produce doctors, in spite of this very difficult environment.”
“All this has vanished,” he says, “The doctors are…the first ones to come help people when they are wounded or they are victims of a humanitarian crisis. To me it’s like firing on an ambulance.”
WHO, he says, will not give up.
“If there is one message to the Somali people, and especially to the students in medicine and nurses, we are going to help you, and we’re going to continue to help you, because it is so important that in times of crisis we have the right humanitarian assistance,” he says.
But it goes beyond medical assistance.
“I think it is important that the Somali people still have hope that the next batch of students are going to be able to achieve their graduation. It’s extremely important that we continue generating hope. And I feel extremely determined to continue doing so,” he says.
Defying the odds
“This is the thing. Everyone talks about Somalia as being a place impossible to live in and to stay. But guess what? In the last decade we’ve been able to produce, in spite of all these difficulties, health workers in Mogadishu, in a hospital in Banadir University. That is a great achievement,” he says.
The World Health Organization official says it’s really about rebuilding a country and its institutions.
“I think it’s so important we have a sense that the Somali are there to help themselves. It is so important as an image. And it is probably this image that someone has been trying to defeat,” Laroche says.