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WHO Trains Somali Health Workers to Improve Weak System

  • Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun training Somali health workers in trauma and obstetric surgery in the capital Mogadishu. WHO says it hopes to shore up the country's weak health system by improving the skills of doctors, nurses and midwives.

The Somali capital Mogadishu is wracked with violence. Last month alone, the World Health Organization reports 30 people were killed and at least 900 wounded in fighting between the government and rebel militia.

WHO says children under age five accounted for 10 percent of reported injuries, which included shrapnel and gunshot wounds, fractures and crush injuries.

Spokesman Paul Garwood says WHO is training 33 doctors, nurses and midwives to help them cope with the escalating conflict in the city.

"We have seen amid the violence a WHO trauma surgeon enter Mogadishu to conduct three, four days of training," said Garwood. "Several-dozen doctors and other health workers were trained in these life-saving procedures. It is part of a campaign that in the past year alone more than 100 Somali health workers have been trained. We see Somalia has a very week work force, probably the weakest in the Middle Eastern Region."

The WHO Middle Eastern region stretches from North Africa to Pakistan.

Garwood says Somalia only has about 250 qualified doctors, 860 nurses and just 116 midwives. This comes to 0.11 health workers per 1,000 people.

Garwood says this is well below the 0.23 thresh hold required to conduct essential health services, such as maternal care and ensuring adequate immunization coverage.

He notes Tunisia, which has a similar sized population, has more than 13,300 doctors and over 28,500 nurses.

"The differences in terms of the work force in Somalia are stark and it is having a major impact on the way in which the health system can deliver care to people during the ongoing humanitarian crisis," he added. "But, despite this, the World Health Organization with its partners are working and are desperate to trying to improve the skill base of the work force in health inside Somalia and will continue to undertake this training such as what recently took place inside Mogadishu."

The World Health Organization and its partners are seeking $46 million to support further training, provide essential medical supplies and monitor and assess the health situation on the ground.

Unfortunately, Garwood says very little money from the appeal has been received. He warns life-saving activities in health will be severely curtailed in the coming weeks if urgent funding is not provided.