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Somalia Hospitals See Fewer War Victims

  • Roopa Gogineni

As security improves in Mogadishu and much of south central Somalia, hospitals are seeing fewer victims of violence than before. Doctors say more and more patients come in for elective surgeries and to seek treatment for "normal" illnesses.

For over 20 years, the Medina Hospital in Mogadishu has treated the victims of Somalia’s war. With the biggest emergency care facility in the city, Medina serves as a referral hospital for trauma and surgery cases from all over south central Somalia and can admit up to 300 patients at one time.

But Mogadishu’s newfound peace, secured by African Union Forces who pushed al-Shabab militants out of the city in 2011, is changing Medina’s caseload. Doctor Mohamed Yusuf said the number of patients arriving at the hospital for treatment of war wounds is declining.

"Medina you can use as a thermometer. It has the temperature of the security of the city. Every person that gets injured by bullet, shelling, hand bomb or land mine, usually they transport them to this hospital," he said.

Hospital director Yusuf said war-wounded patients once occupied 95 percent of Medina's beds. Now, he estimates, the number has dropped to between 70 and 80 percent.

But insecurity lingers, and gunshots ring out nearby.

"This is unusual, but it is to remember that we are in Mogadishu," stated Yusef.

More and more patients are coming to Medina Hospital for elective surgery or for treatment of medical problems such as cancer or hernias.

In the maternity ward, Shukriye Mallow has come to deliver her seventh child.

"I live far away and was not expecting to come to the hospital. The baby was in danger so they took me here to deliver through an operation," she said.

Obstetrician Nima Abdi Hassan has been caring for Shukriye Mallow, who traveled 300 kilometers to reach Medina. Not long ago, such a journey would have been impossible.

Though the growing peace has improved access to health care, Doctor Hassan still faces challenges.

"We don't have well-equipped intensive care units to treat patients, so that is the gap that is missing," she said. "That is most needed right now."

As Somalia stabilizes, the country’s health care demands are shifting.
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