News / Africa

Maternal Health Poses Another Major Challenge for Somalia

Maryan Jamal Ali gave birth to twins in her tent in Sayidka IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo taken December 13, 2011.
Maryan Jamal Ali gave birth to twins in her tent in Sayidka IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo taken December 13, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Roopa Gogineni

Two decades of civil war in Somalia have made the country one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth.

The World Health Organization says Somalia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.  In southern Somalia, the situation is grave, and the recent famine has made the health crisis for mothers and infants even worse.

In camps for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, women give birth in their tents.  If there are complications, they are either taken to the clinic in the camp or, if the resources exist, transported to one of Mogadishu’s three hospitals.

At the Medina Hospital, which focuses on trauma and emergency maternal medicine, nearly 200 women give birth every month. The director, Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, says the famine is straining the hospital's already limited capacity.

"A lot of people who are IDPs today, you can imagine how they are malnourished while they are in pregnancy," Yusuf said.  "And the premature delivery is frequent here, and not having an incubator is another problem.”

A lack of equipment in Somalia is endemic.  There are no neonatal facilities in the south.  And without respirators or incubators - caring for premature babies is difficult. The closest incubator can be found 846 kilometers north in Hargeisa, the capital of the autonomous region of Somaliland.

In Hargeisa, Edna Adan Ismail, a British-trained midwife and the former first lady of Somaliland, established a private maternity and training hospital in 2002.

She believes training is the key to improving healthcare, but that is just part of the challenge.  Both her hospital and Medina Hospital are understaffed because they cannot compete with salaries offered by international organizations.

“The biggest pirates of the staff that we train are the international organizations working in the Horn of Africa and Somaliland," Ismail said.  "When we are training these nurses and midwives, they don’t support you because they say 'Oh no no.  This is not in our budget,' and as soon as you’ve trained them, then they offer them salaries and they steal them from you.”

Another challenge facing medical providers in Mogadishu and Hargeisa is the Somali custom rooted in Islam that requires a man’s consent to treat female patients.  Often the father or husband will disagree with the doctor’s recommendations for surgery.  In emergency situations, this negotiation can be time-consuming and often fatal.

“They just say she will deliver by the will of God, so let’s just wait," said Dr. Nimo Abdi Hasan from Medina Hospital.  "Sometimes they refuse C-section, so we just wait until they allow.  If they don’t allow, we just discharge the patient, tell them to take them somewhere else because we can’t have death on our hands if we can do something.”

Edna Adan Ismail believes it is a permanent feature of Somalia society that must be worked around.

“That is our custom; that is our culture," she said.  "The husband is the person who is responsible for that woman and he should give consent because he is going to be footing the bill anyway.  So even when she can afford to pay for herself, the custom is that the husband approves.”

Somalia Maternal Health

Patients wait at the Banadir Maternity and Children's Hospital in Mogadishu, December 14, 2011. (VOA - R. Gogineni)

World Health Organization figures show that maternal and infant mortality rates in Somaliland have improved since its decision to break away from Somalia in 1991.

Experts says the rest of Somalia has been left behind because it has not had a functioning government for near two decades.  While Somaliland has an unrecognized but functioning government, has worked to develop state institutions to provide public services and a government-run hospital.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid