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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More